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09 Homer Preview: The Cardinals Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview featuring our very own Ball State Cardinals is courtesy of Edge, a two-time alum of Ball State University, resident rocker here at OTP, and the guy responsible for shouldering the heavy burden of being OTP’s Muncie Bureau Chief. Give it up… this one goes to 11.

Homer Preview: Ball State Cardinals

Ball State logo

What You Need To Know
Nate Davis is not going to walk through that door.

Are we understood? Ok, he wasn’t the only one who has left the program, but it seems to be the main thing on every prognosticator’s mind. “What will they do without Nate?” “How will the offense rebound from Davis’s departure?” What you need to know is this: keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, and if you have a heart condition, the 2009 Ball State Cardinals can not be held responsible for injury or death.

Kelly Page steps in to some pretty big shoes this year offensively, and before we all make ridiculous homer predictions on the final record, it’s my duty to inform you that the odds we have a 12-0 regular season and repeat appearance in the MAC championship game are not good. I say this because in 2008, Ball State dominated offensively. I’m reviewing the numbers this morning, and I think you’ll find this statistic impressive: Ball State scored 202 more points than their opponents in 2008. The next closest in the MAC was Northern Illinois with 80. Ball State also scored 65 more total points than the next highest-scoring team in the MAC, which was Buffalo. (But I’m admittedly tiptoeing around the fact Ball State played one FCS opponent as well as Western Kentucky, arguably a second 2008 FCS team). There’s no two ways about it. Ball State in 2008 was an offensive juggernaut.

The 2009 offense won’t be this effective. Kelly Page hasn’t played much yet at game speed, but that young and inexperienced offensive line will be the biggest issue. It’s great we have a big game back in MiQuale Lewis, but without great blocking, his preseason accolades will go right out the window. By all reports, the roller coaster ride I mentioned earlier will likely be a reality. The first few games are good in that we have a couple, um, non-BCS opponents, but we could really be in trouble at Auburn if the offense isn’t 100% ready.

Ok, how about the defense? Well, they honestly don’t look to be too bad. There’s been some losses, but those stepping up this year look to have their act together. Brandon Crawford will once again anchor this squad, but you also need to know that Sean Baker has had an 8-month fast on soul-eating. That ends in six days, when he gets another chance to feast. All joking aside, Ball State will have a good season defensively should the veterans remain healthy.

Those are the main things you need to know about Ball State in 2009. That and the coaching staff overhaul… don’t think I forgot about that. Don’t use the GMAC as a barometer for head coach Stan Parrish. In six days, we’ll find out what he has in store for us.

Who You Need to Know
New head coach Stan Parrish
QB Kelly Page – the offensive line will make or break his success
HB MiQuale Lewis – ditto
TE Madaris Grant – offensive captain
DE Brandon Crawford – defensive captain
FS Sean Baker – soul connoisseur

Games to Watch
Any conference game this year will be one to watch. But if you are limited in time to attend or listen to games, make sure to tune into the last three games in November. Our friends at Northern Illinois and the duo of Central and Western Michigan are going to want some serious payback for 2008. I have a feeling at least two of those will be very close. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which game will be an embarrassment… and for whom.

Aside from conference games, the obvious game to watch should be at Auburn. I fear this game, not only for the beating which could occur, but for the damage it could do to the rest of the season. A good showing on our part could be a nice boost, but a blowout could really kill the morale for the next two weeks. Of course, we could eke out the win, but at this point in the offseason, it’s time to get real and pull our heads out of the clouds.

They’ll Do Well If…
… the offensive line shows it can play at the college level. Preferrably, the FBS level.

… Kelly Page relies on his captain Madaris Grant for quick receptions he will undoubtedly need with an inexperienced offensive line.

… Ray Bentley doesn’t commentate on any BSU games this year.

… Brandon Crawford remains healthy and leads his squad effectively.

… Stan Parrish settles in, runs the team effectively, and has the support of the fans and Muncie community (which can be difficult).

Season Outlook
This is a homer preview, but I have to play it realistic. Scroll down and you’ll see I predict a record of 8-4 this season. Realistically, this is possible, and it’s something we all hope will happen. But this season could really take us in a number of directions, including 9-3 like Alan predicts. Or we could seriously backpedal due to our offensive youth. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about Florida, Oklahoma, USC, Texas… so while a lot of thought goes into my 2009 record prediction, I could be embarrassingly wrong. But I think that either 7-5 or 8-4 should be viewed as a serious accomplishment given what we lost from 2008. I guess the motto for this whole season will probably be: “We’ll See…”. See you Thursday against North Texas. Rock on. Game on.

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