The Edge: UK vs. Akron

Randall Cobb vs. Manley Waller

Waller is the only returning starter in the Akron secondary, which was the strength of the defense last season. At 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, he’ll have a handful with whoever he lines up against. Even Cobb, one of UK’s smallest receivers, has a 20-pound advantage on him, and he’s a handful for even the most physical of corners to bring down once he has the ball.

When you have a player like Cobb, who can break tackles from linebackers and safeties by sheer will, it doesn’t bode well for an undersized corner trying to defend short passes. Bubble screens and slants may not excite the fans – until Cobb breaks loose for a big gain after the catch with defenders bouncing off him.

If the Zips decide to use Waller elsewhere, his matchup problems won’t get any better. Chris Matthews, La’Rod King and Matt Roark, who have also been a big part of UK’s passing game this season, are all 6-foot-4 or taller.

Nate Burney and Alex Allen vs. UK’s rushing defense

No one will mistake Burney and Allen, who head the Zips’ rushing attack, for Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. But they have combined for 288 yards in Akron’s first two games, and the Cats showed last week that the rushing defense still needs to be finely tuned.

This is the time for UK’s front seven to whip itself into shape. The Cats face Florida’s Jeff Demps next week, and he piled up 97 yards on just 12 carries in last season’s meeting. Defensive coordinator Steve Brown said the rushing defense showed improvement last week, but a couple mistakes resulted in some long runs. Here’s guessing those small mistakes will be resolved by the time Saturday rolls around.

Patrick Nicely vs. Commonwealth Stadium

Nicely started most of his freshman season for the Zips, but didn’t play the first four games. When he sat those games out, he missed seeing action against Penn State and Indiana. He’s only started two games against opponents from BCS conferences – both of those contests were losses to Syracuse.

The Orange are hardly a football power, and while the Carrier Dome can be an intimidating environment in big games, Commonwealth Stadium’s crowd of 65,000 will likely be the biggest crowd he’s ever played in front of. He’s also playing in his third game using a new offensive system that puts him under center more than he did in his freshman year. Judging by his 46 percent completion percentage this season, he still isn’t comfortable in it.

The bottom line is that Nicely, who has seven career touchdowns and seven career interceptions, could lose his composure against a Southeastern Conference opponent. The Zips lost 38-37 against Gardner-Webb last week, so there is no reason to think Akron poses a serious threat to UK.

UK head coach Joker Phillips mentioned earlier this week that the starters were spending more time against the scout teams than playing other starters to make sure the team was ready for the level of play they would encounter this weekend. Look for UK’s coaches to use this game to prepare some younger players for action later this season if they haven’t had much time on the field yet.

The Final Edge: Maximum edge in favor of UK