Football looks to take the next step

By Terry Rabbitts, Sports Editor

In 2005, the Akron Zips football team enjoyed its finest season at the Division 1-A level. It finished the season with a winning record, won the MAC Championship Game, and competed in its first bowl game at that level.

Fast forward ten years: since then the Zips have not had the luxury of a winning season, including three straight seasons of 1-11 records.

In 2012, Terry Bowden took over as head coach and in his first year was 1-11, but has led the Zips to back-to-back seasons of 5-7. Highlights include almost beating ranked Michigan and Northern Illinois on the road in 2013, and a close defeat at Penn State to go along with a victory at Heinz Field over a tough Pittsburgh team last season.

This season, coach Bowden’s fourth, has the buzz of being a winning season and quite possibly a trip to a bowl game for only the second time since UA joined Division 1-A in 1987.

Creating that buzz is the fact that numerous players have transferred from Power Five conference (Big 10, Big 12, ACC, PAC-12, and SEC) schools; also that there are 43 returning lettermen, including 11 players that have started at least 10 games.

Also working in the Zips’ favor is the schedule; that is, besides the season-opener against the 19th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.

Missing from this year’s schedule is Northern Illinois and Toledo—schools that have often given UA trouble. Replacing them this year will be Eastern and Central Michigan, who usually reside in the lower half of the Western Division of the MAC.

With the schedule with way it is, some good play from returning players and the newcomers, and an avoidance of the the injury bug, this year’s edition of Akron Zips football could have people talking good things after each weekend.