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Better Know: Central Michigan

Better Know Logo 200It’s rare to have a season-defining game this early in the year, but on Saturday, the Cardinals have just that. Sitting at 1-5 on the season and in the middle of a five-game losing streak, a win on Saturday changes the tide and proves that Ws are in fact possible. It would be a tremendous confidence boost for Jack Milas to get his first win, and the defensive effort needed for a victory would hopefully springboard into future defensive performances.

The flip-side of that coin is a loss would set a tone that is just as defining for the back half of the season. A loss puts the Cards at 1-6 and would guarantee a sub-.500 season barring some significant miracles. Of the seven games remaining, a case could be made this is the 3rd-most winnable, behind UMass and Eastern Michigan. So yes, this game is important. It’s time to Better Know: Central Michigan.

Team: Central Michigan Chippewas
Record: 4-3 (2-1 MAC)
Ranking: Unranked
Head Coach: Dan Enos
Series: BSU leads 24-21-1
Last Meeting: BSU W 44-24 in Muncie in 2013

Central Michigan Head Coach Dan Enos
… is in his 5th season at the CMU helm.
… has an overall record of 23-33 with a MAC record of 15-20.
… is a former Michigan State quarterback, having the 3rd best pass completion percentage for his career and the 8th highest total yards.

When it comes to CMU versus Ball State
… this will be the 47th meeting of the Cards and Chips, with BSU having won five of the last six meetings between the two.
… the Chips hold the advantage in games played in Mt. Pleasant, holding a 12-9 series advantage.
… kickoff on Saturday is at 3:30 and is watchable via ESPN3.

The Central Michigan Chippewas
… certainly have a steady recruiting base within their own borders. 74 players on their roster hail from the state of Michigan along with 6 of their coaches, 3 of whom played at CMU.
… are coming off a road win in Dekalb over the Northern Illinois Huskies.
… have a stellar running back in Thomas Rawls. The senior is averaging 168.0 rush yards per game.
… recorded their losses at home against Syracuse, at Kansas, and at Toledo. Their wins came at home to Chattanooga, at home to Ohio, and on the road against Purdue and NIU.

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Final Word: Western Michigan

The Final Word 200I woke up on Saturday morning so excited for football. It was Homecoming Saturday in Muncie, there was a winnable game on the BSU schedule, things could get no better. That line of thought served me for roughly 38 seconds until I stood up, took about three steps toward the bathroom, and felt that weird feeling in your mouth that says something is about to happen, none of which you are going to enjoy. Twenty minutes later, after I had seemingly purged all that I could possibly have in my system and was ready to attack my Homecoming journey with renewed vigor and energy, it happened again. And it was in the next ten minutes as I laid on the cold tile floor in my family’s southern Indiana homestead that I thought perhaps a Homecoming journey wasn’t in the cards for me.

There was reason to be excited, you know. Western Michigan was far from a world beater and the Cardinals needed a win in the worst possible way. 1-4 starts aren’t in CPL’s make up and 1-5 starts damn sure aren’t. There was a new quarterback under center, Quake was still ready to chew up yards in the backfield, and perhaps most importantly, across the field stood perhaps Ball State’s biggest advantage: Western Michigan’s head coach PJ Fleck. Boat oars be damned, if it came down to coaching, I’ll take my shot with CPL.

The too long, didn’t read version of events: Ball State dropped their fifth consecutive game to fall to 1-5 on the season and now sit at 0-2 in MAC play. Were there positive things to take away from Saturday? Of course, and we’ll get to those below. But there was a sizable takeaway as well, and speaks to a much larger issue at play for this year’s dreadful start. Most notably: “This is not the BSU team that we are used to under Coach Pete Lembo in any way, shape, or form.” There is nothing to be giddy about when Ball State gives up a 28-7 lead with 3:36 to go in the 2nd quarter. There is nothing to be giddy about a defensive effort that allowed thee touchdown drives of four plays or less. There is reason to be excited about the offense not being so pedestrian and vanilla, but mired in a 5-game losing streak with some significant defensive woes sort of brings all facets back to Earth.

The Cards did play turnover-free football and actually had an advantage in time of possession, so that’s pretty awesome. Early lead aside, this was the definition of a 50-50 game, and it didn’t end up in the Cards’ favor. It stings more now because quite literally every 50-50 game and situation over the first three years of the CPL regime went to the good guys. So we sit with a 1-5 record with a road game against CMU looming and some discipline issues circulating the team. It’s always a great time to be a BSU fan, but to call this anything other than challenging would be ignoring the obvious. Your final word on Western Michigan…

bleak (adj.)
depressing

Some other thoughts on the loss…

  • It was great to see Jordan Williams get back to his old self with 11 catches, 179 yards, and 2 TDs. That is the kind of effort that we all thought was the norm for JW and I’m thrilled to see the little nagging injuries no longer hamper his ability to make a statement kind of stat line.
  • Scott Secor perfect again on his five extra points and one field goal.
  • Punter U may be back in action as Kyle Schmidt and Secor combined for a 50.3 yard average on their punts for the day.
  • When the defense gives up 161 yards and 3 scores to a single player as they did on Saturday in the case of Jarvion Franklin, that makes it quite difficult to get a W.

The Cards are on the road this Saturday against Central Michigan. The Chips come in at 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the MAC. Kickoff is at 3:30 and Vegas opened the line at CMU (-6.5), where it was quickly bet up to CMU (-9) at some books. We open the CMU festivities around these parts tomorrow in earnest, so fire up for that.

Three Footballers Involved in Poo Dollar Incident

BSULogoI think I can go ahead and end my blogging career with that headline, because frankly, if you had asked me to list the top 25,000 things that I would ever write on here that wouldn’t be on the list. It may not be on any list. Ever. But it is on the police blotter for Muncie from Sunday, as the Ball State Daily News reports.

You can check out the full report here, which would be advisable, if only so you can know what we’re talking about. The “Too long, didn’t read” version: waitress picks up bill booklet, smells something foul, finds dollars inside, dollars covered in poo. Which is just disgusting. The person who allegedly did it was 17 and with a group of six people, three of which happened to allegedly be Darius Conaway, Keenan Noel, and Nicholas Isaacs.

It raises multiple questions…

  • Why are three football players hanging out with a 17-year old? Simple explanation would be a family member. Worst case would be a recruit. If the latter is the case, I’d think that handing in poo dollars means you are no longer considered for a scholarship.
  • If the poo dollars were the only tip, then that’s kind of cheap. Two bucks (poo-covered or otherwise) on anything more than a $10 bill is a bit on the tightwad side of things.
  • Logistically, I’d like to have a conversation with the alleged suspect to see how the transfer took place. Was it direct poo to dollar? Was there a go-between like tp or the kid’s hand? This brings up multiple issues that have not been addressed. Get on that, Zaleski.
  • Is there another program that has odder arrests than BSU? From someone stiffing a cab driver on a ride from the Village to Beacon Hill (maybe $3), to someone getting  a DUI in a parking garage, to people stealing boner pills from a drug store, to now this. Big schools may have memorabilia, guns, and weed but here in the MAC it’s a boner pill poo dollar fiesta.

In at least a little bit of seriousness, I’d expect at least some form of missed game time for all three of the athletes involved, however on the periphery their involvement may have been. For Conaway, it may be worse, and probably should be, given his prior incidents that weren’t too positive for the program. CPL doesn’t strike me as someone who appreciates black eyes for the program, so I can’t imagine this is going to go over well. Also, I can only hope someone references this whole thing in Brothers’ Yelp review, because if not, we’re doing it wrong.

OTPcast 6.11

OTP Cast Logo200Pretty touchdowns that we need
Cardinal offense has the speed
As a change was made on top
The attack will never stop

It’s the way we’re feeling we just can’t deny…
Cause Jack’s ’bout to let it fly

We found hope in a Milas change
We found hope in a Milas change
We found hope in a Milas change
We found hope in a Milas chaaaaangee….

Jason and Alan are back in time for Homecoming with special guest Ben Breiner from The Star Press! They chat about the Army loss, the WMU game on Saturday, and the opening of the Jack Milas show in Muncie. It’s a shorter OTPcast than you’re used to but still jampacked with awesome.

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

MacRoundTable

Admittedly, 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. But I digress.

The host of this week’s roundtable is Tim, from Bull Run, your one-stop shop for all things Buffalo related. The school not the wings. Unlike the school, the wings have never crushed my soul with a pile of turnovers in Ford Field as we watched the MAC title and an undefeated season slip away. Stupid Buffalo. Off we go!

For most of the MAC the season is half over. Bowing Green/Akron leads the East and Toledo/NIU lead the west how do you think the rest of the season plays out?

Honestly, the first time in a while, I think it’s about anyone’s race. I think when the dust settles it will be Toledo and BG, but that’s more of  an educated guess than some sort of substantive informed opinion. Frankly, I’m more concerned with our own little situation at BSU to worry about the conference as a whole. Mostly because I’m a selfish prick, but also because Ball State’s ability to even impact the conference race is almost entirely slipping to spoiler. That is, of course, fine by me, as I’m a firm believer in shitting all over someone else’s season while your mired in the weeds of your own not-so-awesome situation.

Looking ahead to the second half of the season what is the best realistic scenario you see for your team

I’d like to say that the change in quarterback will lead to Ball State ripping off seven straight wins, the Cardinals winning the MAC, and me going to Detroit for the bowl where I will meet a Canadian beach volleyball player who will fall madly in love with me and adopt me as her cabana boy. All of those things are probably not so realistic (at least the football related things) so that didn’t answer the question. Most likely, there will be marked improvement and the Cardinals will have to fight to finish 5-7. That’s closing out the season 4-3 and that’s not terrible given who is on the schedule.

Many of the P5 programs are seeing their attendance start to fall, the more popular mid majors are also starting to fall off. What has your program done to help bolster your attendance and what do you believe they should do next?

They’ve done some well-needed things like putting in a video board on one end of the stadium. They’ve increased premium seating in recent years. They also allow kids and families to sit on the hillside where there inflatables and those sorts of things. I think it’s more about what they haven’t done. There is still archaic tailgating time restrictions and policy enforcement. There is still a significant lack of stadium amenities like a decent bathroom:fan ratio or some decent stadium food options. Most disheartening of all, though, is the half-assed way that BSU even counts their attendance. It’s at best an estimation and they don’t even do that right, going significantly under what it looks like is there. If we’re going to be dishonest, let’s not hurt the reputation in the process.

Better Know: Western Michigan

Better Know Logo 200Good morning, Cards fans! It’s a busy day around the Pylon so keep popping by for some goodies in advance of Homecoming against the Western Michigan Broncos and PJ Fleck’s oars. There’s reason for optimism around the Scheu. There’s a new QB1 in Jack Milas, the weather for Homecoming is looking picture perfect, and last I checked, Muncie Liquors still has plenty of beer and liquor for your various Homecoming-type activities. But today isn’t about standing in a parking lot and drinking your face off. Today it’s time to Better Know Western Michigan…

Team: Western Michigan Broncos
Record: 2-3 (0-1 MAC)
Ranking: Unranked
Head Coach: PJ Fleck
Series: WMU leads 21-19
Last Meeting: 2013, Ball State W, 38-17 @ WMU

Western Michigan Head Coach PJ Fleck…
… is the youngest head coach in FBS. At just 33 years of age, Fleck was a child of the 80s, probably tight-rolled his pants, and DEFINITELY had some badass Trapper Keepers.
… is an NIU alum and spent two seasons in the San Francisco 49ers organization.
… has compiled a 3-14 record at WMU as he continues through his second year. Though normally that would be cause for concern, to his credit he did inherit a steaming pile of hot garbage.
… is a beast on the recruiting trail, signing a class last offseason that was ranked 58th by Rivals, the highest non-AQ conference school rank and the highest MAC class ranking ever.

When it comes to WMU versus Ball State…
… the series wasn’t always so close. BSU has won seven of the last ten to make it 21-19 WMU.
… the Cardinals are 11-9 against the Broncos in games played in Muncie.
… this year won’t be the first time they have played on Homecoming. Most recent? A 2012 win for the Cardinals.
… the fact that it’s Homecoming is good news for BSU. The Cardinals are 53-32-2 all-time in Homecoming games.

The Western Michigan Broncos…
… opened MAC play last week with a 20-19 overtime home loss to Toledo.
… had that oddity of a score against the Rockets thanks to a missed extra point in overtime.
… scored wins this season over Idaho and Murray State, scoring both 45 points in the wins.
… had losses this season to Virginia Tech (away), Toledo (home), and Purdue (away)
… have five student athletes named to their respective positional award watch lists.

Really though, the story of Western Michigan begins and ends with this fan video:

The amount of things that causes me to vomit in my mouth in this fan video are so numerous I can’t even hit them all in this space. The 7 Nation Army? Awful. The boat oar schedule? Quaint. The boat oars in general? Still puzzling. But I have a new question… can someone explain why the Broncos get hype with a big foam steak?

WMU Raw Meat

This damn program, man.

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.

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.
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