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Cardinal Preview: Ohio

Ball_St helmetOhio_OLD11

Ball State vs. Ohio

Time: 12:00pm
Location: Scheumann Stadium
Television: Online stream via BallStateSports.com

Sports, by nature, is psychological. Confidence, attitude, swagger… you can call it whatever you want, but the simple fact is the mental attitude of a team often times has just as much to do with success on the playing field as skills or experience. It is the hope of Cardinals fans that last weekend’s win against EMU snowballs itself. Lord knows it would be nice to have a happy snowball sort of experience instead of the heaping helping of negativity, cynicism, and fault finding that has been the BSU fanbase over the last 7 games. (9 games if you count Buffalo and Tulsa from 2008!)

The Basics
Ohio University Bobcats
Location: Athens, Ohio
Record: 5-3 (3-1 MAC)
Last Week: L, 11-20 vs. Kent State

Ball State University Cardinals
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 1-7 (1-3 MAC)
Last Week: W, 29-27 @ Eastern Michigan

Offense
Ohio finds themselves 10th in the MAC in total offense, averaging a little over 315 yards per game. They are primarily a passing team, more than a bit worrisome considering the propensity of our defense to not play exceptionally well against that new fangled forward pass. Chris Garrett and Donte Harden are the two leading rushers for the Bobcats, but neither is over 70 yards per game. Tyler Tettleton and Theo Scott both played last week in Ohio’s loss to Kent State, but their offense was putrid. Gaining only 164 yards of total offense and -9 on the ground helped Kent hand Ohio their first conference loss.

For BSU, last week was a resurgence of sorts of offensive power unseen since last season. Granted, this edition of the Cardinals did it on the ground instead of through the air, as Quale Lewis and Cory Sykes combined for over 500 yards of rushing, an NCAA record. Tanner Justice, filling in for injured Kelly Page, only had 1 yard of passing, but he is 1-0 as a starter.
Advantage: Ball_St helmetAn effective offense all season long that sputtered last weekend versus an effective offense last weekend that has sputtered all season long. Like so many things in college football, it’s what have you done for me lately.

Defense
Ohio’s defense is 3rd in the MAC giving up roughly 343 yards per game. Compare that to BSU’s 10th in the conference standing with 390 yards per game allowed. Ohio has also faced impressive opponents this season like Tennessee and Connecticut. Ohio is 5th in the league in both rushing and passing, and paced in coverage by freshman Gerald Moore and senior Patrick Tafua who have combined for 5 picks this year. Junior linebacker Noah Keller has 7.5 TFL and 2 sacks, and will be an integral part of shutting down the BSU rushing attack. DL Dak Notestine also has 2 forced fumbles and 4 sacks. Ohio leads the conference in fumbles recovered and interceptions.

For the Cardinals, the defense that many expected to be the calling card of this team with its experienced returners has yet to materialize. Last season’s unit, operating under a sort of bend but don’t break principle, has broken on several occasions this season, including inexcusable breakdowns in pass coverage and tackling at extremely critical times. If the Cardinals can put together a complete sort of game, force turnovers, pressure the opposition, and make their tackles, then they have the potential to dominate.
Advantage: Ohio_OLD11On paper and for now, Ohio. But this BSU team is due for a dominant sort of showing.

Mascot
For Ohio University, their “mascot” is Rufus. So named because of a student vote and submission. I can think of many more applicable names.
rufus
Unconfirmed on whether or not this was taken from the Thriller video with the yellow jaundice eyes.

For Ball State, say hello to Charlie Cardinal… whose bad-assedness knows no bounds.
charlie cardinal
Advantage: Ball_St helmet

Intangibles
Ball State is trying their best to put together a… wait for it… WINNING STREAK! Recognize. Ohio is trying to gain their 6th victory this season… and reaching that mythical Bowl Eligible threshold. Perhaps the biggest intangible will be the atmosphere created at Scheumann Stadium. A good showing on Halloween for the BSU faithful may lead the charge to another Cardinal win. The turnover difference is shocking for Ohio (+10), and they also lead the conference in average kick returns… an area BSU has struggled with this season.

Overall
This is hardly a must win for either school, as no matter what the outcome, both schools seasons have already been easily defined. Ohio is still in Bowl contention, in the hunt for the MAC East, and every MAC game now that is won makes that sort of accomplishment far more reachable. No matter the outcome though, Ohio fans have to be pleased with the direction of the program. For BSU fans, it’s basically the polar opposite. No matter what happens in this particular contest or going forward, most fans wear their disappointment and anger on their sleeve about the 2009 campaign.

This is far from an unwinnable game for the Cardinals, but it would require perfection in the turnover department and an offensive attack that has been missing for most of 09. Not out of the question, and not surprising should it happen, but there has been nothing to suggest that that sort of effort should be expected. If the offense can play turnover free and keep the defense somewhat honest by displaying some semblance of balance, in addition to converting on third downs to keep our own defense fresh, that’s a start. Defensively, the Cardinals must keep pressure on the passing game, limit the cushion for the Ohio receivers, and actually make tackles. If all those things happen, then the Cardinals have a great shot at an upset. If not, then it could be a long day in Muncie. We’ll land in the happy medium.

Prediction
Ohio 31
Ball State 24

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