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MAC New Media Preseason Poll

MACI remember a time when the MAC New Media group was a small collection of blogs that all varied in degrees of frequency, professionalism, fan-voice, and ad bait. That was back in ’08 when we hung our shingle in the blogosphere, and the group of sites that covers the Mid American Conference has evolved, advanced, and evolved some more. Though some blogs have gone dark, others have sprung up, and Hustle Belt has been pushed to the forefront by the SBNation Death Star, the passion of the group hasn’t waned.

Tomorrow is MAC Media Day in Detroit. You’ll get to see what mainstream media thinks about the coming season of MAC football. But who better to get your information from than the group of people who follow these teams and this conference day in and day out. The great things about getting news and other goings on from blogs is that you’re hearing from someone who doesn’t have a myopic view of just one team, which also happens to be couched in between the local high school goings on, national sports stories, and all the other things that a mainstream journalist has to scramble for. So, the new media of the MAC thought it best to give you what you need, an unvarnished opinion about how the conference is going to shake out in the fall.

Our voters?

For the East…

  1. BG (6) 52 points
  2. Akron (1) 41 points
  3. Buffalo (1) 39 points
  4. Ohio 38 points
  5. Kent State 23 points
  6. Miami 19 points
  7. UMass 10 points

For the West…

  1. NIU (4) 42 points
  2. Toledo (2) 41 points
  3. Ball State (2) 33 points
  4. CMU 25 points
  5. WMU 15 points
  6. EMU 13 points

The group collective picked NIU as the MAC Championship winner, with Terry Bowden claiming Coach of the Year honors and BG QB Matt Johnson taking home Player of the Year.

My reply all response to the above when it hit my email for the group was “You are all high.” and I stand by that. My other thoughts outside of the aforementioned assumption that people are either inebriated, ignorant, or blissfully unaware (or a combination of all of the above):

  • It’s so good to see people expect to see a drop off after good QBs graduate, hence BSU landing in third in the West, 6th overall. What’s that? NIU is still ranked #1 in the west despite losing their All-Galaxy QB Jordan Lynch? Well that doesn’t seem very consistent, now does it?
  • Apparently the slurping of BG can now begin in earnest. Thank God! (That’s sarcasm)
  • This the last year for UMass in the MAC, so next year’s new media poll will have to pick a “zOMG WORST TEAM EVUR!!!!111″ to champion. I nominate Buffalo. Or Western Michigan.
  • My ballot was:
    • East: BG, Akron, Ohio, Kent State, Buffalo, Miami, UMass
    • West: BSU, Toledo, NIU, CMU, EMU, WMU
    • My MAC Champion was BSU, Coach of the Year was Pete Lembo, and Player of the Year was Jahwan Edwards

That screams “homer pick” and in theory you could be right given how mine shook out, but you would be wrong in practice, as I also shared my working theory for why I picked the way I picked. I’m of the belief that BSU behind the running prowess of Quake wins the West. That explains why they are tops in that division and why he would be my Player of the Year. I had BG as E1 because of Johnson, and had the Cardinals tossing their second thumping in a month on the Falcons in Detroit. Why Lembo you ask? Because apparently the people “in the know” think BSU is going to have a God awful season with a drop off like no other MAC team. I’d say if CPL can win the conference with those expectations, then he’s a shoe-in for Coach of the Year. The rest of my picks were a mixture of educated guesses and unadulterated hatred. Massholes and boat oars sunk to the bottom of both my divisions and the rest were just a toss-up.

So there you go, boys and girls. If I could walk these down from Mt. Cardinal on two stone tablets, I would, and frankly, given the heat and humidity I wouldn’t mind wearing a flowing robe. And nothing else. HEY O! But yeah, MAC media day is tomorrow, so get yourself ready for some more fun from your friends here at OTP.

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BSU & Miami By the Numbers

By the Numbers200On Friday while masses of people slam themselves into each other at retail establishments to try and get a television that’s 5 percent lower on sale than usual, the Cardinals will be tucked safely in bed getting ready for their 1pm showdown against the 0-11 Miami Redhawks. It’s the definition of a trap game, as the Cards are attempting to position themselves for the best possible bowl and the Redhawks are simply trying to avoid the goose egg in the win column. They’ve already fired their coach, their last home game drew under 9,000 fans, and their starting quarterback suffered a knee injury on October 31 ending his season. Suffice to say, times in Oxford aren’t so fun right now.

The Cards come in at 9-2, looking to get to double digits and solidify their rightful place as the second best team in the MAC. That will matter come bowl season and invite time, especially if NIU crashes the BCS again. But bowls and placement within them are not the concern right now. Right now, the thrashing of the hot garbage pile from Oxford is the top priority. Let’s see what the numbers say…

 

BSU vs. Miami:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU Miami
Scoring Offense 17th (38.7)
125th (9.4)
Rushing Offense 81st (154.3) 116th (98.3)
Passing Offense 13th (323.1) 120th (122.5)
Total Offense 21st (477.4) 125th (220.8)
Scoring Defense 58th (25.8) 102nd (33.9)
Rushing Defense 99th (199.1) 113th (230.9)
Passing Defense 76th (233.5) 96th (244.2)
Total Defense 97th (433.5) 111th (475.1)
Sacks 73rd (20.0) 112th (13.0)
Sacks Allowed 26th (14.0) 124th (45.0)
Turnover Margin 11th (+10) 63rd (+/- 0)
3rd Down Conv. % 40th (44.4%) 125th (23.0%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 73rd (40.2%) 120th (48.7%)
Red Zone Conv. % 18th (89.1%) 125th (61.1%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 27th (76.5%) 29th (77.1%)
Punting 63rd (41.0) 7th (45.5)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 7th (32.6) 15th (36.4)

So, that’s a beat down. Dead last (125th) in several categories, and only trumping the Cardinals in average yards per punt. And Lord knows Miami has had enough practice with their anemic offense this season. Games aren’t played on paper, but this is the most lopsided statistical advantage BSU has enjoyed all season long. It’s the season finale, Senior Day, and a blackout for the fans who show up. On paper, this shouldn’t be close and let’s all hope that transitions to on the field.

Updated MAC Championship Scenarios

MACThe games this week in the MAC for our midweek slate had significant impact to the Conference Championship race. In the East, Ohio is now out of contention following their loss to Bowling Green. Buffalo’s loss to Toledo made the Bulls’ road a bit tougher than it was, and has led to a play-in game for the MAC East title on Black Friday. That Rocket win also kept Toledo’s hopes for a MAC West title on life support, but the Rockets do have a feasible way in to Detroit, albeit a small one. The same could be said for BSU who will need help, and a considerable amount of it.

MAC East

    • Bowling Green:
      • Current Record: 7-3 (5-1)
      • Remaining Games: @EMU, @BUFF
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W @Buffalo
    • Buffalo:
      • Current Record: 7-3 (5-1)
      • Remaining Games: @MIA, BG
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W vs BG
    • Ohio:
      • Current Record: 6-4 (3-3)
      • Remaining Games: KENT, UMASS
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated
    • Akron:
      • Current Record: 3-7 (2-4)
      • Remaining Games: @UMASS, TOL
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
    • UMass:
      • Current Record: 1-8 (1-4)
      • Remaining Games: AKR, @CMU, @OHIO
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
    • Kent State:
      • Current Record: 3-8 (2-5)
      • Remaining Games: @OHIO
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
    • Miami:
      • Current Record: 0-10 (0-6)
      • Remaining Games: BUFF, @BSU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.

MAC West

    • Northern Illinois:
      • Current Record: 10-0 (6-0)
      • Remaining Games: @TOL, WMU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W @ Toledo -OR-
        • Tol L @ AKR and BSU L v MIA
        • L @ Toledo and W vs WMU and BSU W vs MIA: Tiebreaker ensues where cross over opponent record determines divisional champion
    • Ball State:
      • Current Record: 9-2 (6-1)
      • Remaining Games: MIA
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W vs MIA and NIU L @ TOL and NIU loss vs WMU
        • W vs MIA and NIU loss @TOL and TOL W @AKR: Tiebreaker ensues where cross over opponent record determines divisional champion
    • Toledo:
      • Current Record: 7-3 (5-1)
      • Remaining Games: NIU, @AKR
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W vs NIU and W @AKR and BSU loss vs MIA
        • W vs NIU and NIU W vs WMU and BSU W vs MIA: Tiebreaker ensues where cross over opponent record determines divisional champion
    • Central Michigan:
      • Current Record: 3-6 (2-3)
      • Remaining Games: @WMU, MASS, EMU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Mathematically Eliminated
    • Eastern Michigan:
      • Current Record: 2-8 (1-5)
      • Remaining Games: BG, @CMU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Mathematically Eliminated
    • Western Michigan:
      • Current Record: 1-9 (1-5)
      • Remaining Games: CMU, @NIU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Mathematically Eliminated

So as you can see, the road to Detroit for the Cardinals is a tough one. With the current projections, Toledo would win the tiebreaker if NIU, BSU, and Toledo all finish with one loss. If BSU and one other opponent finishes with one loss, the tiebreaker is head to head record, and BSU wins out over only Toledo. So for the Cards to make it to Detroit they’ll need NIU to lose to both Toledo and Western Michigan. Toledo may give them problems but Western sucks something awful. What a strange twist of fate that I may have to actually root for PJ Fleck and the Broncos to close the season. Of course, all the speculating is a moot point if the Cards don’t come out and take care of business against Miami on the 29th. That’s 15 days away and there’s still a ton to play for like a potential division title and bowl placement.

MAC Championship Game Scenarios

MACIt certainly isn’t too soon to start wondering about the MAC Championship game and how certain teams can make it there. At the given time, six teams are still alive for their division, but after the next 48 hours, we’ll have a much cleaner picture about how the divisions shake out and who is still alive. Here’s where we stand now, before the Tuesday night Maction of Ohio @ Bowling Green and Buffalo @ Toledo and Wednesday night’s Game of the Year with NIU/Ball State:

MAC East

  • Buffalo:
    • Current Record: 7-2 (5-0)
    • Remaining Games: @TOL, @MIA, BG
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs BG -OR-
      • L vs BG, W @ Toledo, W @ Miami and BG loss to either Ohio or @EMU
      • L vs BG, W @ Toledo, L @ Miami and BG loss vs Ohio and BG win @ EMU and Ohio W vs Kent and Ohio W vs Umass – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
      • L vs BG, L @ Toledo, W @ Miami and BG loss vs Ohio and BG win @ EMU and Ohio W vs Kent and Ohio W vs Umass – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Bowling Green:
    • Current Record: 6-3 (4-1)
    • Remaining Games: OHIO, @EMU, @BUFF
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs Buffalo, W vs Ohio, W @ EMU
      • W vs Buffalo, W vs Ohio or @ EMU and Buffalo loss to either @Toledo or @Miami
      • W vs Buffalo, L vs Ohio, W @ EMU and Ohio W vs Kent and Ohio W vs Umass and Buffalo loss to either @ Toledo or @ Miami – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Ohio:
    • Current Record: 6-3 (4-2)
    • Remaining Games: @BG, KENT, UMASS
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W @ BG, W vs Kent, W vs UMass and Buffalo loss @ Toledo and Buffalo loss @ Miami and Buffalo loss vs BG
      • W vs BG, W vs Kent, W vs. UMass and BG W vs Buffalo and BG W @ EMU and Buffalo loss to either @Toledo or @Miami – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Akron:
    • Current Record: 3-7 (2-4)
    • Remaining Games: @UMASS, TOL
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
  • UMass:
    • Current Record: 1-8 (1-4)
    • Remaining Games: AKR, @CMU, @OHIO
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
  • Kent State:
    • Current Record: 2-8 (1-5)
    • Remaining Games: MIA, @OHIO
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
  • Miami:
    • Current Record: 0-9 (0-5)
    • Remaining Games: @KSU, BUFF, @BSU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.

MAC West

  • Ball State:
    • Current Record: 9-1 (6-0)
    • Remaining Games: @NIU, MIA
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W @ NIU  -OR-
      • L @ NIU, W vs MIA and NIU losses against both @Toledo and WMU and Toledo loss against Buffalo or @Akron -OR-
      • L @ NIU, W vs. MIA and NIU loses against both @Toledo and WMU and Toledo wins against both Buffalo and @Akron – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Northern Illinois:
    • Current Record: 9-0 (5-0)
    • Remaining Games: BSU, @TOL, WMU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs BSU, W @Toledo -OR-
      • L vs BSU, W @ Toledo, W vs WMU and BSU L vs MIA -OR-
      • W vs BSU, L @Toledo, W vs. WMU and BSU W vs. MIA and TOL W against both Buffalo and @Akron – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Toledo:
    • Current Record: 6-3 (4-1)
    • Remaining Games: BUFF, NIU, @AKR
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs BUFF, W vs NIU, W @AKR and NIU W vs BSU and BSU L vs MIA
      • W vs. BUFF, W vs NIU, W @AKR and NIU W vs BSU and BSU W vs MIA – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Central Michigan:
    • Current Record: 3-6 (2-3)
    • Remaining Games: @WMU, MASS, EMU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated
  • Eastern Michigan:
    • Current Record: 2-8 (1-5)
    • Remaining Games: BG, @CMU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated
  • Western Michigan:
    • Current Record: 1-9 (1-5)
    • Remaining Games: CMU, @NIU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated

As you can see, the “control your own destiny” group of NIU, Ball State, Buffalo, and BG are sitting in the driver’s seat at the moment. After Wednesday, either BSU or NIU will need some help to make it to Detroit. For Ohio and Toledo, they need help already and much of it relies on the outcome of tonight’s and tomorrow’s contests. Leave it to the MAC to make it interesting this late in the season.

BSU & NIU By the Numbers

By the Numbers200On Wednesday, the Cards travel to Dekalb for what amounts to a one-game playoff for the MAC West. A victory means the Cards are heading to Detroit for the MAC Championship and a loss means the Cards will need help from Toledo the following week to even make it to a tiebreak situation. Suffice to say, it’s big. Most fans of both programs had this game circled since the summer when the schedules were released as their ” Must Win” of the 2013 season. Now, it’s here.

Each team has had remarkable success this season, with NIU being undefeated at 9-0 and ranked 15th in the latest BCS standings. The Huskies are realistic BCS busters (as they were last season) but of course that all goes away with a loss on Wednesday. The similarities between the programs are numerous, but let’s see how the teams stack up on paper in this 2013 edition of the Battle for the Bronze Stalk!

BSU vs. NIU:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU NIU
Scoring Offense 14th (39.9)
7th (44.2)
Rushing Offense 81st (152.7) 4th (312.7)
Passing Offense 16th (323.0) 66th (232.8)
Total Offense 24th (475.7) 5th (545.4)
Scoring Defense 48th (23.6) 53rd (25.0)
Rushing Defense 98th (197.5) 42nd (147.1)
Passing Defense 46th (222.4) 109th (271.6)
Total Defense 85th (419.9) 84th (418.7)
Sacks 54th (19.0) 16th (26.0)
Sacks Allowed 33rd (13.0) 2nd (5.0)
Turnover Margin 8th (+10) 10th (+9)
3rd Down Conv. % 44th (43.8%) 54th (41.8%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 65th (39.5%) 32nd (35.3%)
Red Zone Conv. % 27th (88.2%) 38th (86.8%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 17th (72.4%) 115th (91.7%)
Punting 62nd (41.3) 69th (41.0)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 6th (31.4) 99th (61.0)

I thought for sure BSU would trail this week’s by the numbers, but they in fact do not, with a 9-8 lead in the stat categories above. That’s as close as you can get though. The big things to note is this week is a battle of strength versus weakness in that NIU’s fantastic rushing offense is going against a not so great rush defense for the Cardinals. Same could be said for BSU’s passing attack versus NIU’s passing defense. NIU does have a marked advantage in sacks, so the offensive line for BSU and protecting Keith Wenning will be the difference maker. Both teams generate a tremendous amount of turnovers, and the game could very well hinge on one of those. The two most interesting stats for me are BSU advantages in the areas of opponent red zone scoring percentages and penalties. It is intangibles like those that make the difference for two evenly matched teams. If NIU is held to field goals rather than touchdowns in the red zone and who commits their usual 60 yards of penalties, it becomes much more likely for a BSU upset. Vegas sees NIU as a 6 point favorite, with a 69 point over/under, and it’s hard for me to take issue with either of those numbers.

The Reaper Cometh for Ron English, Lesson for Coaches

The fall from hot up and comer to unemployed was lightning fast for Ron English (Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com)

The fall from hot up and comer to unemployed was lightning fast for Ron English (Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com)

I was lying in bed last night trying to come up with possible BCS AQ schools that were going to have an opening at the end of this season in part to sort of get a jump on potential destinations for hot young coaches who may be making the leap at the end of this season. No reason for that. Just, you know, thinking about what ifs. Just in case.

There were a rash of mid-season firings (Lane Kiffin, Paul Pasqualoni, and Don Treadwell) but the grim reaper of coaches has been fairly sated over the last few weeks. Logically, it would make sense at this point to just wait, rather than throw a team into disarray with only a few weeks left of a season. I’d like to think the players and staff of a team, though the inevitable decision looms, would like to finish the year with those around them no matter the circumstances. Eastern Michigan apparently thinks differently, and announced today that Ron English has been relieved of his coaching duties effective immediately.

Ron English had such promise when he was announced as the new top dog at the football wasteland that is Ypsilanti, despite the lack of facilities, a pitiful fan following, and a fairly bare cupboard after Jeff Genyk. But the demise of EMU wasn’t just a Genyk issue. The Eagles had a long history of painful underperformance, having not gone to a bowl game since the 1987 California Bowl and not finishing better than 3rd in the division over that same time period. That bowl trip was when they were the EMU Hurons.

Maybe it was the name change to Eagles that made the last 25 years or so that bad. Maybe it was the large shadow cast by neighbors Michigan, Michigan State, and to some degree, Grand Valley State. I’m sure the ebb and flow of the successful MAC programs like Toledo, BG, Ball State, NIU, Ohio, etc. certainly didn’t help matters. But when Ron English took the reigns in December of 2008, I (like a lot of other people) thought it was only a matter of time until the Eagles did their rotation as a good MAC program like everyone else. Boy, were we all fooled.

On paper, English seemed like just the kind of coach the Eagles would need to be successful. His pedigree was a strong one, he was the mythical “Michigan Man”, strong jaw and gravel voice, the kind of coach you felt like players would run through a brick wall for and ask for seconds because his toughness, grit, and resolve would naturally trickle down to them. And to some degree, that was the case.

EMU was never an easy win. His players always seemed to play hard. The smashmouth style that English seemed to employ was a throwback to yesteryear and a tried and true formula for decades of success in the Big Ten’s hallowed halls. The first two years were a disaster, 2-22 overall and 2-14 in the MAC. But fans, MAC lovers, and football aficionados wrote it off as the remnants of decades of failure. Once English got his players in place, his system established, his recruiting humming, it was only a matter of time. And in 2011, that seemed to be coming true.

Picked to finish last in the preseason poll, because… Eastern Michigan, English led the Eagles to a .500 record overall and a .500 record in conference. They were respectable in all their losses, including in Ann Arbor. They also beat in-state Western and Central. They played conference champion NIU within a touchdown at Dekalb on national television to close the season, their 4th appearance of the year on tv. Things were looking up for EMU, but it was fool’s gold. An opportunity lost for English and a return to irrelevance for a program that has had to endure more than their fair share of it. They were 6-4 in need of one more win to lock them into a bowl. Then they lost 20 of 23.

The epitaph of the Ron English story is one all coaches, especially ones at mid-majors with struggling budgets, tepid fan support, and institutional barriers to success would do well to familiarize themselves with. At the conclusion of 2011, English was linked to several higher profile jobs like Illinois, Arizona State, and Washington State. He had gone .500 at EMU of all places and his stock was high. Unlike Brady Hoke, English didn’t jump when an opportunity presented itself. He even turned down an extension at EMU, presumably waiting for that perfect opportunity. And now, two years later, he’s unemployed.

In perhaps the greatest irony, or the most tragic one depending on how you look at it, is that English’s replacement at EMU to close out the 2013 season is former Ball State head coach Stan Parrish, one of the forefathers of the evolution of the MAC to a spread, uptempo, point scoring bonanza that coined MACtion and rendered the old school style boring at best, unsuccessful and uncompetitive at worst.

Ron English will be fine. His experience and non-EMU results will land him a coordinator job and opportunity to hit the reset button on a career that may very well be successful going forward under the right circumstances. But as is often the case when coaches are removed, the real losers aren’t the coaches, the fans screaming for it, or even the program itself. It’s the student-athletes, assistant coaches, and support staff that have already endured more in this season with the murder of one of their own than anyone should have to.

It’s a shame all around, but it underscores the moral of the story for coaches. Strike while the iron is hot, gentlemen, because the fall from the top to the bottom can often times be clocked with an egg timer.

Initial Thoughts on CMU

logo200That was a beat down. A healthy, exciting, crowd satisfying beat down. The Cards put a thrashing on the Central Michigan Chips to the tune of 44-24, thanks largely to Keith Wenning playing like a grown assed man. He failed to hit 300 yards for the second consecutive week, but he came as close as possible, going for 299 on 20-29 passing with 4 TDs. Snead had 118 yards and 2 TDs in what has become a ho-hum stat line and Horactio Banks added 143 yards on 11 carries with a score. OTP favorite Jordan Williams only had one catch but it was an 8-yard TD so that’s pretty slick.

It really was never close. With 13 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter it was 21-0 and the slow starting Cardinals seemed to have said enough is enough for the slowness. The final score isn’t quite indicative of the difference between the two squads, as by the end of the third it was 41-10, and it became clear that CMU was still trying to scrap for scores while BSU had lost a bit of their intensity. The good news is it didn’t matter, and when you can drop a 20-point win on a conference opponent, that’s a good night.

The bad for tonight was the injury to Quake Edwards and as of this writing, I have no other news about that. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have something to pass on. The attendance was abysmal, but frankly, with a windy cold night in Muncie, I can’t blame anyone for staying home. Make up for it by coming out to Miami on Black Friday.

What is there to take away from this? Not much. It was a blowout win against an inferior opponent that needed to happen. After a hiccup against Kent, I was curious if this team was capable of putting their foot on the gas and not letting up and this showed that they are. And oh by the way, no matter what happens the next two games the Cardinals have 9 wins this season and are virtually locked into a bowl I would think. All good things from a big win.

On a brief little site note, a big thanks to everyone who tweeted, emailed, and texted to let us know we got a namedrop on the ESPN2 broadcast. It was a backhanded compliment for the program, but any publicity is good publicity. All of us associated with this site don’t do it for that kind of stuff, and really only do it for a love of Cardinal athletics, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little cool. So thanks to all of you for sharing it with us. We’ll have the Final Word up tomorrow, but for now, it’s savoring this win, the 9th of the season, and readying ourselves for an EPIC contest against OUR MOST HATED RIVAL  NIU one week from tonight.

Go Cards and goodnight!

Countdown to CMU

OTP Countdown200I remember 2008 like it was yesterday. The dread, the worry, the nervousness that surrounded that season’s CMU game was at a threshold we haven’t seen since around OTP. Between Dan LeFevour, what that game meant for what we assumed was a walk to the MAC Championship, and the like combined in a perfect storm of awesome. Hell, that game is what spawned the OTP tradition of breaking out Dancing on the Ceiling from Lionel Richie for big wins. So CMU has had a special place in the collective OTP heart for a little while now.

But this CMU team is not the CMU team of old. After Brian Kelly and Butch Jones left, the reigns were handed to Dan Enos, and short of last season’s one-game-above-.500 finish and a Little Ceasars Bowl berth, the Enos era in CMU has been quite different from the two before it. When Butch Jones took over for Brian Kelly, it was assumed that the Chips would fall back to Earth. They didn’t. Then the worry changed that they never would. So thank God for Enos reminding us all that not all coaches are created equal, some are better than others, and it only takes one person to ruin a decade’s worth of success. That might be a good epitaph to remind Bill Scholl of when it comes time to find the next man to steer the ship.

Tonight, a 3-5 CMU Chippewa team comes to Muncie with hopes of pulling the upset and making some noise in advance of the OH MY SWEET MOTHER OF GOD, BIGGEST GAME EVER next week between BSU and NIU. But hopes are a dangerous thing when traveling to the snake pit known as Scheumann Stadium. Time to count you down to CMU…

5 Things You Should Know

  • Though many fans remember the neck and neck feeling that BSU & CMU had in 2008, since then, the Cards have owned the Chips. The overall series the Cards lead by one (12-11-1) but BSU has one four of the last five against Central. The only loss was in 2009 as CMU was en route to a MAC Championship and BSU was in season one of the Parrish era.
  • CMU will certainly be well-rested at kickoff. The Chips haven’t played since October 19th. Their bye week was the Saturday before the off Saturday before mid-week play started and that calendar oddity means that the Chips will either be rusted or rested, or perhaps a combination of both.
  • Home may be where the heart is but CMU may have forgotten that fact. Tonight’s BSU contest is the 4th road game in a 5 game stretch for the Chips. Though the MAC footprint isn’t huge, they also had a trip to NC State thrown into trips to Oxford, Athens, and now Muncie. Hope they got frequent flier points for all that travel.
  • The Chips may have three wins, but could easily have lost them all. Central Michigan’s three wins this season include an FCS victory and were by a cumulative total of 18 points. Their FBS wins (Miami and Ohio) have a combined record of 6-12 with all 6 of the wins belonging to Ohio who just got bludgeoned on national television last night against Buffalo.
  • CMU’s staff and roster is all about the mitten. 73 of their players hail from the state of Michigan, and 7 members of their coaching staff went to college in the state. It does raise an interesting question of how CMU has fallen off so quickly after the departure of Butch Jones. Dan Enos did go to the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl last year with a 7-6 overall record, but his first two seasons were 3-9 debacles and this season is off to a 3-5 start. With a recruiting base like Michigan you’d think the Chips would at least be somewhat better on a more consistent basis.

4 Players You Should Know

  • RB Saylor Lavallii – Normally, I’m skeptical of people with consecutive multiples of the same letter in their name. With Lavallii it’s back to back so clearly we need to BURN THIS WITCH AT THE STAKE. Saylor is filling in for Zurlon Tipton who  broke his ankle earlier this season and has done so admirably well. He’s 11th in the country in carries and 6th in the MAC and 27th nationally in yards. He’s sort of a poor man’s Quake Edwards capable of 100 yards+ and multiple scores.
  • WR Titus Davis – Everyone remembers (or should) former Chip Antonio Brown who now suits up for the Steelers and their handsy QB, but Davis should pass Brown this season on the all-time scoring list at CMU. He’s a deep ball threat and is capable of torching BSU’s secondary if special attention is not paid to him.
  • QB Cooper Rush – Apparently the next version of Dan LeFevour without the legs, Rush is a passing threat that as a freshman has already put up a 300 yard game this season. He’s fourth in the MAC in passing for 2013 and considering the names above him, that’s impressive.
  • S Kavon Frazier – Frazier made a name for himself and earned MAC West Defensive Player of the Week honors in the process when the Chips upset Ohio. On two consecutive Bobcat possessions, he forced a fumble and an interception respectively, stopping the OU drives and allowing CMU the upset opportunity that they capitalized on. It would seem to me for CMU to pull a similar upset this evening, Frazier and the CMU defense will have to put the brakes on BSU’s offensive onslaught via the same sort of way.

3 Ways We Win

  • The offense plays like the offense usually plays – Though it sounds eerily simplistic, if the offense performs as it has all season with limited errors and virtually no penalties, the opportunities to pull an upset go down dramatically. Central isn’t a team that can go toe to toe with BSU, both at their best, and come out on the other side. Factor in the anticipated weather issues, and BSU cannot let CMU think they have a chance.
  • Pressure Rush and hope he cracks – I don’t think it’s a significant secret that BSU’s defensive unit can be a bit porous at times. As is often the case in the MAC, give receivers enough time to get open and QBs enough time to find them and pretty points ensue. It’s the definition of MACtion. How that’s stopped is pressure up front. The defensive front of BSU should have their chances tonight to create ill-timed and ill-advised throws from a redshirt freshman QB, one whom may find himself introduced repetitively to Messrs Newsome, Ollie, Cox, and Miles.
  • The weather gets ugly – I’ve heard fans today talk about how the poor weather impacts the passing game, and I don’t disagree with that. However, if it’s a slobber knocker of a mudbowl, that means rushing is the only way to move the ball with any sort of consistency. I’ll take the BSU offensive line and Edwards/Banks/Williamson over CMU any day of the week. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s a good one all the same.

2 Cardinal Questions

  • If the passing game becomes a viable option tonight, which receiver steps up? Each game this season it seems like a different receiver has had a monster game, highlight catch, or statistical break out. Willie Snead is the easy choice, and Jordan Williams and Zane Fakes have had their moments recently, so tonight, I’m looking for Jamil Smith to blow the doors off via a punt return or a busted coverage deep route. Smith has been quiet for a bit, and it’s time he announce his presence with authority. Don’t write off the fact that CMU has a strong legged punter in Richie Hogan, who with the wind may outkick his coverage. Big chance for Jamil to bust one.
  • Who on defense is going to capitalize the most on an inexperienced QB with less than ideal conditions? Whether the front seven records sacks and tackles for loss or the secondary capitalizes on rushed throws or wet balls, someone on this defense has got to step up tonight for the Cardinals to avoid the upset. I’ll go with Ben Ingle having a monster night, as the offensive line for CMU will be so concerned with the defensive line he may get several free shots from the weakside.

1 Bold Prediction

On this week’s OTPcast, I predicted 48-30 and I’ll stick with that spread, but significantly reduce the total points. The rain isn’t going to help the MACtion get turned up to 11, and Jason’s prediction of 26-17 seems a bit more likely in terms of the points scored. I would expect the Cards to adapt quickly to whatever mother nature may throw on them, and utilize one of the many gameplans that Lembo and Skrosky have thought through given variables like wind and rain. If the weather truly does limit an offense’s attack, that benefits BSU’s defense considerably, as they can key on just the run. So given the deluge of cats and dogs it may dump in Muncie tonight, I’ll scale back the score but not the optimism. 35 – 17 Cards and isn’t really that close.

No Cardinal Liveblog tonight as it is a homegame, but you can follow our pithy commentary on the game via our Twitter feed, which you should be following already. It’s the best Twitter feed around. About Ball State football. Follow us here.

Ball State & CMU By the Numbers

By the Numbers200There’s just something about a midweek game that let’s you know it’s getting down to serious business time in the MAC. There are three (count ‘em: THREE!) games left for this 2013 regular season and that fact alone is literally mind-boggling. I’m not sure where the time has gone, but it’s nut cuttin’ time in the MAC. All eyes will be on Dekalb next week as the undefeated media darling and OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU hosts the Fighting Football Cardinals,  but the most important game is always the most current one. And that’s the CMU Chippewas.

The Chips will come into Muncie tonight for a nationally televised ESPN2 spectacle that will hopefully have a huge student turnout in an effort to help Dance Marathon. So I figure the students will show up in mass effect, but much like the Kent State game and operation 20k, the onus for “good attendance” sort of falls on the season ticket holders, general admission folks, alums, and Delaware County-ites. I’ve railed against the attendance problem for years now, and frankly, I’m running out of breath to do it. This is a football team that’s 8-1, in the hunt for a MAC West championship, and is getting votes in both Top 25 polls. I know it’s Tuesday. I know you probably have work tomorrow. I’m sure there’s a million reasons why you can’t. Kids, commitments, blah blah blah. How about you bring your kids to the game? That seems like a winning idea for sure. Get them hooked on the Cards, have them fall in love with football, and they can grow up and become a superstar. Unless they’re a girl. But you can always let her look at the Code Red Dancers. Lord knows that’s all Jason does.

The Chips come to Muncie at 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the MAC with their wins coming against Ohio, Miami (Ohio), and FCS New Hampshire. Their three wins were at a combined margin of 18 points, so I’m not quite worried about CMU blowing the lights off the scoreboard this evening. They’re also coming off a significant layoff. Where as BSU last took the field 10 days ago, it’s been 17 for the Chips with a bye week before the move to midweek action. Whether that means rust or rest we’ll find out tonight on ESPN2. To the numbers…

BSU vs. CMU:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU CMU
Scoring Offense 17th (39.4) 113th (18.6)
Rushing Offense 93rd (141.9) 103rd (125.0)
Passing Offense 16th (325.7) 80th (215.8)
Total Offense 29th (467.6) 108th (340.8)
Scoring Defense 42nd (23.6) 102nd (33.4)
Rushing Defense 104th (206.9) 107th (210.0)
Passing Defense 34th (215.6) 52nd (225.6)
Total Defense 85th (422.4) 93rd (435.6)
Sacks 60th (16.0) 70th (15.0)
Sacks Allowed 27th (11.0) 108th (24.0)
Turnover Margin 16th (+7) 89th (-3)
3rd Down Conv. % 27th (46.6%) 76th (38.3%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 67th (39.7%) 121st (50.0%)
Red Zone Conv. % 38th (86.7%) 89th (78.6%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 19th (73.1%) 87th (85.7%)
Punting 64th (41.3) 37th (42.5)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 5th (31.0) 13th (36.6)

Here’s the thing about statistics: In theory, you could craft evidence in any way to support whatever argument you want to make. There’s an exception to that theory, though, and it’s outlined above. We’ve been doing By the Numbers for several years now and I cannot remember a clean sweep statistically for the Cardinals. Truthfully, a 16-1 margin doesn’t ring a bell either, but I could just be getting old and forgetful. What that means is that on paper, the Cardinals are significantly better and better performing than their counterparts on the field tonight. Unless Dan LeFevour sneaks into a CMU jersey, the Cardinals may very well cover the anticipated spread which Vegas opened at 17.5, and has since been bet up to 21 at most books. To have that much of an increase on a midweek MAC game means a lot of money is coming in on the Cards. Whether that’s Vegas sharps’ money or degenerate scumbags who just have to bet on something I guess we shall see this evening. 8pm. ESPN2. Get your thrashin’ boots ready.

[VIDEO] WMU Coach PJ Fleck was Always a Terrible Dancer

PJ, how do you grade your team's season so far? Remember, it's opposite day!

PJ, how do you grade your team’s season so far? Remember, it’s opposite day!

Every morning I come into my office, flip on the television, and just leave it on as background noise throughout the day. Most days, it’s on CNN or Fox News, occasionally local news to see what’s happening in central Kentucky, or maybe Price is Right if I’m feeling in need of a pick me up. I would wager it’s almost impossible to not turn a bad day manageable after some Plinko, SqueezeOut, or DOUBLE SHOWCASES!!! But I digress.

The top news throughout the morning today has been about the congressional compromise that came at the 11th hour to keep the lights on, the checks coming, and the national parks open and I have to say it’s been a quite infuriating thing to watch. President Obama blames Speaker Boehner, Speaker Boehner blames President Obama, Ted Cruz is ranting at both, and Ron Paul would like to remind everyone how amazeballs the gold standard is and how FEMA is a stupid idea. It reminds me of all the worst things I hated about living in Washington DC and how many of these political compromises are so very seldom about the idea but more about who proposed it and even more so about the little letter that represents their political affiliation. But I think I can speak for all of them, even the crazy ones, when I say that PJ Fleck is the absolute worst.

PJ Fleck made waves at Western Michigan (see what I did there?) with his Row The Boat campaign slogan for Bronco football. In theory, it was supposed to speak to many people working toward a common goal, as you would in a row boat. It definitely got him and the Broncos noticed, primarily because it was so ridiculous. Their mascot is a horse, and a wild one at that. Throw a bronco in a rowboat and see what happens. The thing flails around, the boat sinks, the horse drowns. Is that what you’re trying to say, PJ? YOU WANT YOUR MASCOT TO DROWN? YOU’RE SICK, MISTER!

Like so many things in life, the transition from theory to practice sometimes loses some things in the translation. But it certainly isn’t for a lack of effort. Fleck has carried his oars all over town, he’s put oar stickers on helmets, he has RTB on the gear (presumably for “Row The Boat” but that’s just a guess) and he even started a push for “traditions” to be implemented. Take a look at that below…

OTP has already commented on the whole “traditions” thing. Suffice to say, forced traditions from the administration that don’t develop organically are usually a failure waiting to happen. DJs in stadiums, third down hand signals, dancing before a quarter, etc. are all ways to get an established program to the next level, theoretically. It isn’t a way to get a fledgling program with an unproven head coach noticed in a good way. It’s like putting a Mustang GT body kit on a Ford Pinto frame. Eventually, everything just crumbles away and you’re left with a thing no one wants.

The thing about all this that troubled me most was the dancing. Name me one head coach (other than Les Miles) who would do something like this and actually enjoy it? I think you’d be more likely to see Pete Lembo performing open heart surgery on the 50-yard line than you would be to see Nick Saban doing something like this. Doing this dance requires choreography and training, which takes away from repossessing all those souls.

Oh, but this is not the first time Fleck’s been known to spontaneously break into dance. At a high school rally for the San Francisco 49ers when Fleck was on the squad, this happened…

No words. Just emotions.

In case you were curious, Fleck has rowed the WMU boat to an 0-7 start, soon to be 0-8 if BSU does what’s expected Saturday. God… he’s just the worst.

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