Akron coach Terry Bowden doesn't need to look far to give his team evidence that it can put up a fight Saturday at Tennessee.
He can mention that Bowling Green was tied with Florida midway through the third quarter before falling to the Gators 27-14 in the opening week of the season. Bowling Green and Akron both play in the Mid-American Conference, and Florida won 37-20 at Tennessee last week.
Or he could reference Louisiana-Monroe's stunner over Arkansas two weeks ago and Western Kentucky's victory over Kentucky last week.
"You don't have to talk about once in a decade or once every 10 years," Bowden said. "Every week, whether it be Monroe or Western Kentucky, every week a team beats another team they're not supposed to beat. Like I told our players, there's absolutely no reason that shouldn't be us."
Akron's history offers plenty of reasons why an upset seems unlikely.
The Zips (1-2) have lost 21 consecutive road games since winning 42-35 at Eastern Michigan on Oct. 18, 2008. Akron has gone 3-24 since the start of the 2010 season and has only one win over a Football Bowl Subdivision program during that stretch. In its five previous games with Southeastern Conference teams, Akron has been outscored 256-19. The Zips head into this game as 33-point underdogs.
Then again, that history might not mean much.
Bowden, who went 47-17-1 at Auburn from 1993-98, just arrived at Akron this season. Akron set a Mid-American Conference single-game record last week by throwing for 565 yards in a 66-6 rout of Football Championship Subdivision program Morgan State. Akron lost 56-14 to UCF and 41-38 in overtime to Florida International in its other two games.
"It's (Bowden's) first year and they had a lot of transfers come in, so there are a lot of new faces," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "That first game, probably they were struggling to get things going. Now they've got three games under their belts with a lot of new people. They're playing a lot faster and a lot more comfortable in the systems."
Each of these teams likes playing fast.
Tennessee (2-1) has compiled 321.3 passing yards per game to rank second in the SEC and has four scoring drives of 34 or fewer seconds. Tyler Bray has passed for 900 yards with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions while throwing to a receiving corps that features two of the SEC's best in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Akron averages 55.7 passes per game, which is tied with Marshall for second among all FBS teams. Only Houston passes more often. Dalton Williams, a transfer from FCS program Stephen F. Austin, is tied for second in the nation in touchdown passes (10) and ranks fourth in total passing yards (1,004).
"They have a fast-tempo offense," Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers said. "They run quick plays and snap the ball quick, so we have to get lined up and get subs in and out."
Williams faces a Tennessee secondary that has two new starters this week.
Sophomore cornerback Justin Coleman moved ahead of senior Marsalis Teague on the depth chart and will make his first start of the season Saturday. Tennessee also shuffled its safety rotation after Brian Randolph tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week in a 37-20 loss to Florida. Byron Moore moves over from strong safety to replace Randolph at free safety, while Brent Brewer takes Moore's old spot.
That secondary could have its hands full against Akron's fast-paced offense, but Tennessee's biggest challenge this week is to avoid focusing on what went wrong last week. The Vols can't brood over the loss to Florida so much that they overlook Akron.
"You can't look past anybody and you can't dwell on the past," Tennessee tailback Rajion Neal said.
There's also the possibility that Tennessee could be looking ahead rather than looking back.
After facing Akron, Tennessee has four consecutive games against ranked opponents: No. 5 Georgia, No. 23 Mississippi State, No. 1 Alabama and No. 7 South Carolina. Sandwiched between Florida and Georgia on Tennessee's schedule, Akron could be facing the Vols at an ideal time.
"Things have to go right," Bowden said. "They're a much more talented team than us, and they have a lot more athletic ability than we do and size than we do and speed than we do. They've got Georgia next week. Maybe they'll be thinking about Georgia."