Williams-Brice Stadium – Columbia, South Carolina
The Akron Zips are playing in December once again. This time, however, it doesn’t involve a bowl or MAC championship game (ala 2017). The Zips will meet South Carolina in Columbia Saturday, enabling both schools the normal 12 regular season games.
After losing their season opener at Nebraska due to severe thunderstorms and lightning, the Akon Zips were looking for a 12th opponent. In October, they found a partner in the South Carolina Gamecocks, who lost their home game in mid-September against Marshall due to Hurricane Florence.
Here is more on the two teams:
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (6-5, 4-4 SEC)
►► Last Saturday, the Gamecocks fell to in-state arch rival Clemson (ranked second in all three major polls (AP, Amway-Coaches, College Football Playoff) 56-35 at the Tigers “Death Valley’ lair.
►► The game with the Zips is a makeup for the Gamecocks losing their home game against Marshall on September 15th due to Hurricane Florence
►► In their history, the Gamecocks are 8-3 against the MAC. However, they have not played a team in the conference since 2010 when they defeated Eastern Michigan
►► South Carolina became Bowl Eligible on November 17 with a 49-9 home win over Chattanooga (Mocs-FCS/Southern Conference).
►► Head Coach Will Muschamp is finishing his third season as head coach in Columbia after succeeding Steve Spurrier. He has a 21-16 record at South Carolina and 49-37 overall as a head coach (including stints at Texas and Florida).
►► Muschamp is 3-0 lifetime against the MAC. This is his first game against UA
►► Offensively in 2018, South Carolina has averaged 33 points and 443.3 yards. Last week against Clemson, they amassed 600 yards in total offense. (USC had 602 the previous week in a win over Chattanooga).
►► Junior QB Jake Bentley has completed 64.9 percent of his passes (209-of-322) for 2,754 yards and 24 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
►► The ground game is led by junior Rico Dowdle with 547 yards and four touchdowns.
►► Senior WR Deebo Samuel leads the receivers with 58 catches for 849 yards and nine touchdowns
►► The offensive line has allowed only 18 sacks one of the best in the SEC
►► On the defensive side of the ball, South Carolina has yielded 29.4 points and 440.3 yards through 11 games. As a unit, they have collected 19 sacks. six interceptions four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 38 pass breakups
►► Junior LB T. J. Brunson leads the tackles with 88 total stops (51 solo) along with four sacks, 10 tackles for losses
►► The game with UA marks the 11th in 12 games the Gamecocks will play the MAC at home. The lone exception was in 1975 when they faced Miami in the Tangerine Bowl at Orlando
►► 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of football at South Carolina
►► USC will open their 2019 season on August 31st in Charlotte against North Carolina and their new head coach Mack Brown
AKRON ZIPS (4-7, 2-6 MAC)
►► The Zips last Friday dropped their fourth straight game and seventh of their last nine after starting the season at 2-0 falling at Ohio 49-28
►► The game with South Carolina is a makeup contest for the Zips having their season opener at Nebraska cancelled on September 1st due to seven thunderstorms and lightning
►► Since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1987, UA is 0-5 lifetime against the Southeastern Conference. Their last game was at Tennessee in 2012 47-26
►► Head Coach Terry Bowden completing his seventh season as the Zips head coach with a 35-51 record at UA 175-113-2 overall
►► Against the SEC, Bowden is 30-16 (0-1 at UA) and 2-0 lifetime against South Carolina
►► The UA offense in 2018 is averaging 20.4 points and 297.5 yards. Friday against the Bobcats they complied 388 yards the second most on the season (431 in the season opener against Morgan State
►► QB Cato Nelson is completing 52/5 percent of his passes (158-of-303) for 2151 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
►► Against Ohio, despite still not being 100 percent due to an ankle injury suffered in the home loss to Northern Illinois, Nelson completed 24-of-41 passes for a career best 356 yards and four scores.
►► Nelson’s first touchdown pass to RB Van Edwards in the second quarter Friday ended a streak of 10 quarters without an offensive touchdown
►► Van Edwards, one of 29 seniors playing their final games in Blue and Gold leads the rushing attack with 558 yards and five touchdowns.
►► WR Andre Williams leads the receiving corps with 46 catches for 649 yards and six touchdowns
►► The offensive line has allowed 29 sacks
►► Defensively, UA has allow3ed 27.1 points and 388.5 yards. Collectively they have 20 sacks, nine forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries, eight interceptions, and 35 pass breakups
►► LB John Lako had 118 total tackles (63 solo). He is one of seven defenders with 100 or more tackles this season. He also has a sack, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery
►► DB Alvin Davis leads the MAC with four interceptions two for touchdowns (both in the victory at Northwestern)
►► LB Ulysses Gilbert has two fumble recoveries -- both for touchdowns (against NU & Miami)
►► Six Zips made the 2018 all-MAC teams. All of them on defense with Alvin Davis the lone first teamer. DB Kyron Brown, Ulysses Gilbert, and Jamal Davis on the second team with Lako and LB Brian Bell on the third team
►► The Zips end begin their 2019 season on August 31st at Illinois. The non-conference schedule also has home games against Troy (Sun Belt) and UAB (Conference USA) with a road tilt at Massachusetts (independent)