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Ball State vs. Western Michigan: By the Numbers

SBy the Numbers200aturday marks a significant turn of events in Ball State football and a watershed moment in 2014. It’s not only Homecoming, where the crowd at tailgating will almost certainly dwarf the fans in the stands. It’s not only game one of the Milas era, where presumably the turf in front of receivers’ feet will breathe a welcome sigh of relief. Besides those two things, it’s the beginning of the real MAC season, where believe it or not, Ball State can still play havoc with the conference race.

Talk about a potential storybook ending! Jack Milas comes in after a rocky first five games and leads the Cardinals to a Homecoming victory that springboards the Cardinals on to win out, claim the MAC West once Toledo loses a second conference game, and play for a MAC title in Detroit. I can see it now.

But first on that agenda is a Homecoming win over the 2-3 Western Michigan Broncos, losers of two straight games to Toledo and Virginia Tech. Let’s see what the numbers say…

Western Michigan @ BSU:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU WMU
Scoring Offense 105th (22.0)
59th (32.0)
Rushing Offense 71st (165.7) 49th (187.4)
Passing Offense 99th (189.4) 51st (257.8)
Total Offense 102nd (355.0) 47th (445.2)
Scoring Defense 60th (24.2) 87th (29.0)
Rushing Defense 99th (198.0) 88th (180.8)
Passing Defense 27th (199.2) 60th (229.0)
Total Defense 71st (397.2) 78th (409.8)
Sacks 121st (4.0) 113th (6.0)
Sacks Allowed 30th (7.0) 70th (11.0)
Turnover Margin 67th (+/- 0) 42nd (+2)
3rd Down Conv. % 93rd (37.7%) 67th (42.0%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 83rd (41.6%) 69th (40.0%)
Red Zone Conv. % 69th (82.4%) 50th (85.7%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 15th (69.6%) 79th (84.2%)
Punting 84th (40.7) 33rd (43.4)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 38th (47.8) 78th (58.6)

I can’t remember the last time a MAC team not named “Northern Illinois” held such a slanted statistical advantage. It’s 11-6 bad guys, and even if you knock out the stats like rushing defense and passing defense because of the oddities that are created by playing Army. Even with that qualifier, it’s not great news when you look at the chart above. Something else for you to consider is the teams those statistics were accumulated against. For Ball State, their opponents were two FCS schools (Colgate and Indiana State), a B1G opponent playing a C+ game at best (Iowa), a service academy on a three-game losing streak (Army), and a multiple weather stoppage conference opponent (Toledo). For the Broncos, that advantage was gained by playing a common opponent in Toledo, ans also Purdue, Idaho, Murray State (FCS), and Virginia Tech. So make of that what you will. The Vegas line on the game is Ball State -1 and I am absolutely shocked that is the case.

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Meet Your New Starting Cardinal Quarterback

Suffice to say the offense this season has been neither what it once was nor what we all wanted it to be. On Tuesday, Coach Pete Lembo released the weekly depth chart and changes are a-comin’ in the Cardinal backfield. Gone from QB1 is Ozzie Mann, replaced by redshirt freshman Jack Milas. Those close to the program and in a position to know say that Milas was competitive for the QB1 job all spring and some were surprised this change wasn’t made sooner.

Aside from being the new starter for Ball State, Milas was also featured in 2013’s Day In the Life series from Sportslink. Worth a watch to put some personality with the name. Go ahead… I’ll wait.

I can only hope this doesn’t cause a rift in the future poppy seed muffin evaluations from Mann and Milas. The thing I notice most in that video is that Milas has an intangible amount of personality that almost is sort of a swagger. I don’t see him getting lost in the position or it being too big for him. The great ones have that in spades.

For me, it ultimately comes down to results. When BSU is 11th in the MAC in passing offense, that’s a problem. Is Milas going to come in, set the world on fire, and win the MAC? Who knows. But this does give me some hope for the rest of 2014. Jack Milas… you’re up.

Coach Lembo’s MACtastic Teleconference [AUDIO]

MACEvery Monday the MAC coaches gather via teleconference to discuss the prior week’s results, the week ahead and any other assorted facts or fun that the media on the call want to ask about. It’s a nice inside look at the man who wears the headset and you hear it straight from CPL as opposed to the filtering and spin that media (OTP included) puts on quotes, soundbites, etc. Kudos to the MAC for making these available, as the days of routing our phone through a recorder seem quite dinosaur these days. Take it away, Coach…

Final Word: Army

The Final Word 200Some teams write off their out of conference schedule as simply the precursor to the meat and potatoes of their conference foes. Most will consider a majority of their non-conference schedule easy wins, save for maybe the payday game that some schools have to play or an arch-rival in-state opponent that tradition dictates you suit up against. This year’s out of conference slate hardly struck fear in the hearts of Cardinal nation, with most assuming at worst it would be a 2-2 out of conference season, most likely a 3-1 mark, and 4-0 wasn’t out of the question given Iowa’s seemingly annual inability to beat a good MAC squad. On Saturday, Ball State lost their 3rd and final out of conference game for 2014 33-24 to the Army Black Knights and the 2014 non-conference season comes to a disastrous close.

The ins and outs of Army are inconsequential, most notably because the far-reaching implications of that loss and the team response to it is so mind-bogglingly critical that I can’t adequately describe it. This program until week three of this season was a program on the rise, the next great MAC dynasty, and players and staff alike were heralded as the conquering heroes that the last three seasons exhibited. The loss to Iowa was easily written off as a bigger, tougher, stronger opponent. The loss to Indiana State? Harder to just write off but there were some significant fluke luck and freak plays. The loss to Army? Now we are reaching when we point to the weather. Even Pete Lembo said the rain made the ball too heavy to have a significant downfield threat.

So there’s been lots of reasons people could point to as to why this Cardinal team now sits at 1-4 and needing a miracle over the next 7 weeks to be competitive for a postseason appearance. None of them especially matter in they eyes of a fanbase that has been apathetic more than it has been supportive and at times seems like they are looking for a reason to not come out to Scheumann Stadium. A demoralizing loss to WMU on Saturday for Homecoming would conveniently fit the narrative of “Same old Ball State.”

So our Final Word this week is less about Army, but more about where we are at, or the status of the program so to speak. Your Final Word…

precipice (n.)
a situation of great peril

Some other things I takeaway from the start of this season…

  • Some seem to have given up on this team and believe that this is a throwaway year a la 2009. I don’t see that being the case at all and am certainly not in that camp. Number one, last season didn’t see the kind of success that 2008 did and the drop off isn’t as severe. So there’s that.
  • Having said that, I think the amount of people who buy in to this team could dramatically fall off with a loss on Saturday. It’s Homecoming week and I remember a Western Michigan Homecoming game in 2010 that I actually left at halftime because it was just awful to sit through. For the sake of the attendance the rest of the season, I hope Saturday is a convincing win.
  • Your Homecoming weather forecast is partly sunny with a high of 59* as of this writing. That’s better than the rain originally forecast, but as most of us know, if you don’t like the East Central Indiana weather, just give it an hour or so and it will change.

Initial Army Thoughts

army logoWelp, I guess the days of Ball State fans being able to chalk up a service academy as a for sure W are in our rearview mirror. With Saturday’s 24-33 loss in West Point, the Cardinals fall to 1-4 and I’d say we have reached the point where even the owners of the rosiest colored glasses are going to ask some questions about the goings on in the Fisher Football Complex. Whether your emotions range from confusion, questioning, anger, rage, frustration, or abject apathy it’s safe to say that this coming week is going to be bumpy, which is a shame considering it’s Homecoming Week in Muncie.

As for today’s freshly piled bullshit, there were times when things seemed to be clicking. I could point to the myriad runs that Quake Edwards was able to rip off (usually with multiple Army cadets hanging on him) as evidence that offensive bursts and big plays are possible. I could point to the penultimate offensive possession for the Cardinals that resulted in a Dylan Curry touchdown as proof that Ozzie Mann is capable of moving this offense down the field in an effective manner and good decision-making. Hell, I could point to the drive before that one as the definition of steady and effective playcalling and performance.

But there’s a flip side to those arguments as well. Like the 6 of 8 drives before those that resulted in either a turnover, a turnover on downs, or a punt, none of which was over 23 yards or 6 plays. There was the piss poor defensive effort across the board, allowing 425 rushing yards, gargantuan even with Army’s slanted run-first option attack. Yet again, Ball State was shadowed in time of possession (38 minutes to 22 minutes), committed more penalties (4 to 1), and had more turnovers (2 to 1). Those sorts of things have not happened under the direction of CPL and when they did, they certainly didn’t all happen together to combine into a cacophony of suck. If you made the argument that it wasn’t as close as 33-24, and BSU shouldn’t have been within 9 points of Army given their performance I couldn’t really counter that. Going 1-8 on third downs and allowing 9 of 15 third down conversions isn’t going to win you many football games.

Weren’t we all messing our britches over Kevin Kelly’s first few games in Muncie? Perhaps he was jealous the offense was getting all the attention (albeit negative) and wanted to share in the spotlight. Well, welcome aboard the suckwagon, Coach Kelly. You’re new here but it’s your turn in the barrel. I am aware the option requires defensive precision and assignment football. That didn’t seem to be happening on Saturday. The defense seemed ill-prepared and underdeveloped and that is squarely on the coaching staff. How did we spend the idle week? Playing Super Smash Brothers and refreshing the Fappening page on Reddit?!

Supporters of CPL will say he has coordinators responsible for those sorts of things, and they would be correct. But the CEO has the responsibility to ensure his cabinet is doing things the correct way. Ultimately, there’s a heaping pile of blame for piss poor playcalling and a general lack of preparedness that goes to all three of the guys at the top. At some point, you can’t blame it on being a new coordinator. You can’t blame it on a first-time starter. You can’t blame it on the rain (Milli Vanilli reference… drink!). In fact, at this point, I take the entirety of my frustration off the players and put it entirely on Mssrs Lembo, Lynch, and Kelly.

Ultimately, where I shake out is perhaps simplistic, but I’m a simple kind of guy. It would appear to me that the playcalling is conservative at best, completely incorrect at times. That is 100% a coaching issue. It would appear to me that the units are at times unfocused, ill-prepared, and not ready to compete at a championship level. Allowing them to get to that point is 100% a coaching decision. Allowing them to remain in the lineup is 100% a coaching issue. Allowing them to remain in the lineup because the remainder of the roster (for the first time in the Lembo era comprised entirely of his recruits) is not any better is 100% a coaching issue.

I sat in the media room after the Indiana State debacle and heard Coach Lembo espouse the usual platitudes of “This is where we’re at”, “No one’s happy”, and “”Trust the process.” After today, I would respond with “Let’s maybe try to be someplace else”, “Good. Welcome to the party”, and “Eh….”. Final Word tomorrow.

Bonus Fun Fact!: Early forecast for kickoff against Western Michigan next Saturday is a high of 55 and rain. I’d put the over/under at announced crowd at 9k and probably bet the under.

OTPcast 6.10

OTP Cast Logo200No fancy song lyrics this week because we are much too focused on getting that W.

Jason and Alan are back after an idle week to get you ready for Army. The guys touch briefly on the Toledo game and where BSU goes from here. Nationally, the story of the week is Brady Hoke and Michigan and as a BSU alum and former coach they touch on that as well. Finally, they wrap it up with Friends of the Pylon getting married along with George Clooney and tie it up with the best power ballads of the 90s. All that and more in this week’s OTPcast.

Couple of different ways to hear this puppy. Viewing OTP in a feedreader? Then visit the site or download the mp3 from iTunes by clicking here. Leave us a rating on iTunes if you like what you hear! Enjoy…

Ball State vs. Army: By the Numbers

By the Numbers200On Saturday, the Cardinals attempt to right the 2014 season on the road in upstate New York when they take on the United States Military Academy. Ball State holds a 3-2 advantage over the Black Knights and have won three straight, but overall they are just 1-2 in historic Michie Stadium. For Army, it’s a bounceback game as well, as they have dropped three straight games, all on the road and stand at 1-3 overall. Yes, they lost Yale, but they also beat Buffalo. This season makes no sense and frankly, these two teams could have any possible outcome Saturday and it wouldn’t shock me at all.

For Ball State, this is a litmus test for the defense under coordinator Kevin Kelly. Army’s triple option attack is no secret and it’s not tricky. It’s easy to gameplan for but a real pain in the ass to execute because it requires attention to detail and precision; two things, by the way, that the Cardinals haven’t had a ton of this season.

A win and it’s a bright spot heading into conference play and a respite from the negativity that has surrounded the program in the last few games. Losses to FCS Indiana State, Toledo, and Iowa with just a lone win against FCS Colgate have left the fanbase in shambles and armchair coaching everything from offensive playcalling to starting personnel, some of which more warranted than the others. Suffice to say, it’s a massively important game to gain some momentum heading into the remainder of conference play. Let’s see what the numbers say…

BSU @ Army:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU Army
Scoring Offense 105th (21.5)
77th (27.8)
Rushing Offense 68th (167.8) 9th (316.5)
Passing Offense 101st (193.5) 125th (90.8)
Total Offense 99th (361.3) 74th (407.3)
Scoring Defense 48th (22.0) 111th (36.8)
Rushing Defense 58th (141.3) 98th (196.8)
Passing Defense 69th (237.0) 111th (286.3)
Total Defense 57th (378.3) 115th (483.0)
Sacks 120th (3.0) 116h (4.0)
Sacks Allowed 34th (6.0) 21st (4.0)
Turnover Margin 53rd (+1) 53rd (+1)
3rd Down Conv. % 72nd (40.6%) 100th (35.3%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 57th (37.1%) 117th (48.9%)
Red Zone Conv. % 88th (78.6%) 119th (64.3%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 18th (68.8%) 85th (86.4%)
Punting 103rd (39.7) 73rd (41.4)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 48th (50.8) 86th (63.0)

Some things stand out to me even more so than the 10-6 edge Ball State enjoys, namely the 48th rank in penalty yards. I can’t remember a Lembo-led squad in Muncie ever being outside the top 30, and usually closer to the top 5. It speaks to the lack of precision we talked about above. I would also like to thank Army’s unused passing game for letting BSU get a stat advantage despite being ranked 101st nationally in passing offense. Given how much more important the pass is to Ball State than Army, I’d say that’s a win for the Black Knights.

Kickoff on Sunday is at noon, and you can check it out nationally on CBS Sports Network.

MAC Blogger Roundtable

MacRoundTableAdmittedly, the MAC blogosphere has been an evolving little gem over the last several years. I guess as the MACtion on the field hit fever pitch, the MACtion on the web stepped up their game as well. What has also evolved is the MAC Roundtable. It’s not like King Arthur’s with turkey legs and wenches running around in corsets, because let’s be honest: turkey legs are a gigantic pain in the ass to eat and the service region for the MAC doesn’t lend itself well to females capable of squeezing into anything other than a giant rubbermaid trash can (Exception: the state of Indiana and BSU specifically). Have you seen some of the slumpbusters from Michigan and Ohio? Gooo. I’d rather spend an evening with a lit piece of sandpaper. But I digress.

The host of this week’s roundtable is Carter, from Eagle Totem, your one-stop shop for all things EMU related. That’s Eastern Michigan the school, not emus the animals, but with the season EMU is likely to have, writing about animals may be more satisfying. Off we go!

1. This weekend the MAC suffered four losses by 38 points or more, with Massachusetts losing 48-7, Bowling Green losing 68-17, EMU losing 73-14, and Northern Illinois losing 52-14. Is the payday worth the price in reputation?

I guess I would argue that the thumpings this weekend didn’t diminish the reputation because there wasn’t some stellar shiny reputation before those curbstompings. Usually, there are a couple good to decent MAC schools per year, but when they go up against real teams past week 1, they aren’t given much of a shot unless they are the special kind of MAC team like NIU the last couple years or BSU the last couple years. I guess my thoughts on MAC honor given the losses would be sort of like Chris Jericho doing a shoot on Stephanie McMahon when he first came to the WWE. After her husband came to her aid while Y2J was destroying her verbally, Jericho said to Triple H, “It must be hard to defend the honor of a woman who has none.” Then he called her a bottom feeding trash bag ho and we all laughed. Oh, good times.

2. How has your perception of the conference race changed since the pre-season? Which team(s) have most disappointed and which have most impressed you so far?

I’d say it’s safe to say that I’ve been impressed with NIU more than any other, thanks largely to the fact that they were the first team to three wins and frankly, I expected some level of drop off. That’s going to happen, eventually, right? This damn team can’t be that good for that long forever. It’s like the guy on your floor in college that was great at sports, exceptionally muscular, got all the chicks, had a great singing voice, and came from a wealthy family. I spent an inordinate amount of time hoping that guy got syphilis and died. You can die from that, right?

In terms of disappointment, I’d say Ball State has been significantly disappointing for me personally. We knew things were going to take a step back but suffice to say none of us expected the drop-off to be so significant. I’m not used to this level of disappointment and unfulfilled feelings. I now know how all of my girlfriends have felt at some point or another.

3. If your team could replay one down from this fall and get a different result, what down and why?

I would think that every Ball State fan’s answer would be the same on this one: the final Indiana State play that was perhaps the oddest play I’ve seen in…. forever. It was a cacophony of suck where QBs were getting tackled inbounds with no timeouts and under 15 seconds to play, offensive linemen were dawdling back to the line, someone handed the ball to a teammate rather than an official, and then the official just dropped it as the clock ticked down to zero. If it wasn’t so heartbreaking it would be funny, but it is just sad. Sad that BSU had such a comedy of errors and sad the MAC employs such incompetent boobs to wear referee uniforms on Saturdays.

Got ideas of your own to the above questions? Comment section. And… go.

OTPcast 6.9

OTP Cast Logo200A long, long time ago
I can still remember,
How the Sycamores made me cry.
I knew if I had my chance
That we could podcast, take a stance
And maybe Cards fans wouldn’t die.

But Ozzie Mann he had me worried
When he passed he looked so hurried.
Tough games in the rearview
Toledo makes me so blue
I can’t remember if I cursed
I definitely walked out mouth pursed
The day… the Cardinals… lost.

Jason and Alan are back to go over the crushing Indiana State loss and turn the page to Toledo. Where do the Cards go from here? What’s the answer? They also touch on the Shamrock Series, their Playoff Final 4, and the no good weekend for the MAC. They close with the worst couple weeks in the history of the NFL. All that and more in this week’s OTPcast!

Couple of different ways to hear this puppy. Viewing OTP in a feedreader? Then visit the site or download the mp3 from iTunes by clicking here. Leave us a rating on iTunes if you like what you hear! Enjoy…

MAC Blogger Roundtable

MacRoundTableAdmittedly, the MAC blogosphere has been an evolving little gem over the last several years. I guess as the MACtion on the field hit fever pitch, the MACtion on the web stepped up their game as well. What has also evolved is the MAC Roundtable. It’s not like King Arthur’s with turkey legs and wenches running around in corsets, because let’s be honest: turkey legs are a gigantic pain in the ass to eat and the service region for the MAC doesn’t lend itself well to females capable of squeezing into anything other than a giant rubbermaid trash can (Exception: the state of Indiana and BSU specifically). Have you seen some of the slumpbusters from Michigan and Ohio? Gooo. I’d rather spend an evening with a lit piece of sandpaper. But I digress.

The host of this week’s roundtable are the gents from LetsGoRockets, the Toledo blog. Normally in this space I give the host site a little good-natured ribbing but considering the beating these guys will have to endure on Saturday at the hands of the fightin’ Football Cardinals, let’s just get to it.

1) Three weeks into the season, discuss the biggest surprise (positive or negative) with your respective team?

Where to start. The biggest surprise has been without question the defensive performance. It’s been productivity unseen in ages in Muncie and benchmarks about points allowed and yardage that have been around for decades are dropping like crazy. That’s a good thing. It’s unfortunate that the year the defense decides to put up a world-class effort, the offense can’t stop stepping on its dick every fourth or fifth play. From the playcalling right on down to the execution, this season on the offensive side of the ball is reminiscent of Will Muschamp’s first season at Florida.

2) If you could augment your team with any one player (or coach) from any team in the country, who would you select and why?

If BSU had a quarterback that had a deep threat potential the offense would be off and running. Therefore, I’ll take Bryce Petty and his busted back, a thank you very much.

3) What, if any, game plan changes do you expect to see from your respective team as we dive in to the conference schedule?

There are two critical game plan edits that I’d like to see the Legendary Lembo Crew make. The first is throwing out the “Throw a short pass at the receiver’s feet” play, because that one isn’t working out as well as we thought it would. The second would be the defense of “allow a big-ass seam down the middle of the field that the opposing quarterback can abuse all day” probably needs to take a time out as well. The biggest gameplan edit I’d like to recommend would be “Win this game” because it seems like that is a sustainable strategy initiative.

4) It’s time for the first MAC Blogger ranking of the season – rank all 13 teams in the conference.

At this point, ranking MAC teams is a poopshow of futility but let it not be said that OTP was above getting muddy from time to time. The most correct MAC rankings you’re likely to find…

13. Kent State
12. UMass
11. Miami
10. EMU
9. Buffalo
8. BSU
7. Ohio6. WMU
5. Akron
4. Toledo
3. CMU
2. BG
1. NIU

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