EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern will try to avoid a second straight home loss Saturday night when it hosts Akron. The Wildcats were dominated at home by Duke last weekend 21-7 while the Zips won their season opener (after their Sept. 1 game with Nebraska was canceled), routing visiting Morgan State 41-7.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Northwestern -21
Sophomore quarterback Kato Nelson looked comfortable at the controls of the Akron offense, connecting on 16-of-26 pass attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He was helped by a ground attack powered by senior running back Van Edwards Jr., who had his second career 100-yard rushing game with 109 yards and two scores. Northwestern was able to move the ball against Duke -- finishing with 381 yards of total offense and outgaining the Blue Devils by 80 -- but couldn't put the ball in the end zone after an opening-drive score. Senior wide receiver Flynn Nagel had a big game, setting career standards with 12 receptions for 133 receiving yards, but the rest of the Wildcats combined for 19 catches for 149 yards, a total that will have to improve against a veteran Akron secondary that will certainly be focusing on Nagel.
ABOUT AKRON (1-0)
While the Zips' offense played well against Morgan State, it was the defense that really had coach Terry Bowden pleased after the easy victory. Akron didn't allow the Bears to cross midfield until their final possession of the game, holding them to 192 total yards, forcing three turnovers and coming within 11 seconds of a shutout. Linebackers Ulysees Gilbert III and John Lako led the way with seven and six tackles, respectively, but the upgrade of opponent this week will certainly require an even stronger effort by the defense.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (1-1)
The Northwestern defense has shown signs of life in each of its first two contests, but it hasn't had a consistency for all 60 minutes of the game yet, something coach Pat Fitzgerald is preaching this week. Against Duke, all the Blue Devils' scoring came in the second quarter, while in the opener against Purdue, the Wildcats held the Boilermakers to 13 points after a 14-point first quarter. Fitzgerald's offense hasn't been very consistent either, which is why he's stressing to his defense to keep up their intensity all game long to keep the team in the game until the offense does kick it into gear.
1. Akron ranks first nationally in pass efficiency defense at 47.96.
2. Northwestern LB Blake Gallagher has set career highs for tackles in each of the first two contests in 2018, following up an eight-tackle effort against Purdue with 13 against Duke.
3. Wildcats sophomore RB Jeremy Larkin set career standards with seven catches for 55 yards and 176 yards from scrimmage against Duke.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 35, Akron 17
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