- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Eleventh-ranked Michigan’s matchup with Akron isn’t quite as highly anticipated as was last week’s showdown with Notre Dame. But college football is fun, folks. And if you aren’t convinced of it, here are five reasons why Saturday’s game against the Zips will be one to watch.
1. Devin Gardner and the offense
We’ve seen flashes of what they can do, but against a lesser defense we’re going to see even more of this potential. Through two games Akron has given up 49 first downs, 974 yards and 71 points. So what will we see? Impressive passes? Yep. Long runs? You betcha. Hook and ladder? I wouldn’t count it out. Michigan unloaded some sneaky plays in the first two games of the season, but expect them to throw more fuel on the fire -- especially with this being the thickest Al Borges’ playbook has been at Michigan. Might as well start giving Big Ten coaches shivers about what they’ll have to plan against.
2. Zippers. Everyone has them. But have you seen them on a football field?
Akron’s mascot is the Zip -- short for Zippers (officially shortened in 1950). In 1927 the University of Akron held a campus-wide contest to come up with a mascot for its athletic department and Margaret Hamlin came up with Zippers. Why? Because Akron was the home of B.F. Goodrich Co.’s rubber overshoe. And who doesn’t want to be named after a shoe? And only to entangle the story more, in 1953 the school came up with a physical mascot that was a Kangaroo named Zippy. And if you still aren’t sold, in 2007 Zippy won the Capital One Mascot of the Year Challenge. I don’t know what that entails, but I’ll leave it to you and Google to find out.
3. Youth movement
One of the biggest cheers for any player entering the field so far this season was when true freshman running back Derrick Green took the field against Central Michigan. Akron has lost 27 in a row on the road and if the Wolverines can get out to a big lead, it’ll be a good chance to see what the future has in store for Michigan. Players like Jake Butt and Green have seen quite a bit of playing time, but there’s a good chance we’ll see more into the two- and three-deep on Saturday.
4. Dennis Norfleet
The sophomore has gotten dangerously close to breaking a return for a touchdown. Could this be the game it happens? His longest kick return (39 yards) and punt return (42 yards) could be eclipsed in this game with some well-timed blocks by his teammates and a few strong reads by himself.
5. Jehu Chesson is going for a four-man block this game
Just kidding, he never said that. But, after one of his blocks -- which took out three Irish defenders and sprung Jeremy Gallon for a touchdown -- gained him some acclaim in the Michigan locker room (though, not with the offensive linemen who, as Kyle Kalis explained, “We do that every day”), he’ll be a guy to watch. Michigan takes pride in its wide receivers blocking ability and if this isn’t something you normally cue in on during a game, take some time to watch the 5-foot-8 Gallon pancake a guy or Chesson completely level three.