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Ball State Defense Tackles Misleading Statistics

Is this good offense or bad defense? The stats want you to think the latter.

The Ball State defense has been ripped in the media (what little media that covers the Cardinals) through backhanded compliments. Phrases like “The offense carried the team” are about as mean as you can get in terms of criticizing a defense full of college students.

The statistics of Ball State gave up the most yards in the Mid-American Conference and the 11th most points out of the 13 teams have been well publicized. While these stats are true there are some holes.

Take a look at the rankings for points allowed and points forced for MAC schools. These numbers only take into account the eight conference games as some schools loaded up on FCS tomato cans in their non-conference schedule while others were being paid to take a beating from BCS juggernauts.

Please enjoy this cheap color coded table while the MAC schedules the toughest offenses in the league for Ball State again. Poor Akron having zip to show for.

First thing I noticed is Ball State gave up a 60 more points than it scored and still finished with a 4-4 record in conference. The Temple loss itself almost made the disparity. The Cardinals were like that one guy in fantasy football we all hate who made the playoffs with a negative point differential.

The next thing I noticed is the top five offenses all played Ball State. Ball State was sixth and also played Central Michigan and Buffalo too. That means Ball State played the seven strongest offenses they could have possibly have played.

Ball State did not have the luxury of playing the worse offenses in the MAC. Teams that played Kent State and Akron had a chance to pad their numbers. The Golden Flashes at least had a good defense but the Zips were a bonfire near a gas leak in 2011. It is not a coincidence that the top four defenses in the conference reside in MAC East. Eastern Michigan was the weakest MAC offense Ball State faced and Eastern was not the cupcake in 2011 MAC followers know and laugh at.

To make matters worse, Ball State’s two best defensive players (Sean Baker and Joshua Howard) were injured going into the Temple game resulting in a 42-0 loss Ball State fans erased from their memory banks.

The weakest offense Ball State faced all season was probably Indiana. Instead of playing an FCS school for a cupcake the Cardinals should keep playing the Hoosiers every year. Army, with their unique option offense, is a tough team to gauge. South Florida and Oklahoma would have lit up any MAC team.

It is easy for Cardinal fans to point the finger at the defense when they gave up a lot of points. But teams like Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan can score on anyone. It is not a court marshal offense to give up 40 points to those teams.

The MAC hurt Ball State more than anyone with Akron or Kent State avoiding the schedule. Switch Akron for Temple and Ball State’s defense would have had respectable statistics.

There is also the eyeball test for the defense as well. The Cardinals did not give up many big plays as much as they gave up a buffet of medium ones. Running backs and wide receivers would break through the line of scrimmage until Howard and Baker came up to make the tackle.

The real concern going into next season will be how will the defense hold up without Howard and Baker making plays? I think Baker is probably the best defensive back in Ball State history. (Granted I’m only in my twenties so sorry if there is someone in the 1970s I am leaving out.) No matter what any player or coach says Baker and Howard cannot be replaced in a year.

The MAC West will still have a lot of offenses next year that can create havoc. Graduation will take a toll on those teams but how much?

For now, the next time you hear someone say “Ball State’s defense stinks,” you have my support to tell them off. You are on your own if it turns into a fist fight.



3 Responses

  1. Better than Blaine Bishop? Are you counting just time at Ball State or expecting Baker to play 10 years in the NFL with multiple pro bowls?

    Not trying to be combative here…I’m genuinely curious.

  2. Baker broke the school interception record his junior year. His int record is not coming off the books for a long, long time. Played with only one hand multiple games and still made plays. His interception against Central Michigan in 2008 as a freshman saved the undefeated regular season earning him the sentimental vote. Had multiple defensive coordinators and faced killer offenses every week.

    Honestly, Bishop is before my time as a Ball State fan. Nothing against him. The school interception record is a big edge to Baker though.

  3. It seemed to me that Ball State’s defense was pretty good on first and second downs, but got absolutely torched on 3rd downs — particularly 3rd and long. It seemed like whenever Ball State got a team in a 3rd and 8 where the defense should have the absolute advantage, Ball State would give up a 12 or 15 yard crossing route, or a quarterback draw would go for 20. The defense showed discipline in keeping the play in front of them. Unfortunately, those plays ended up getting first downs.

    I would be interested in how many times Ball State had an offense at 3rd and 6 or greater and how many of those times the next play resulted in a first down.

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