In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to bring back a tradition here at the Pylon, Know an Opponent, in this case, the Know a ’14 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know a ’14 Opponent!
Recently, I’ve been engaged in an ongoing battle with some of my staff about which sandwich place is better: Subway or Jimmy Johns. As a lover of Italian Night Clubs along with giant pickles (get your mind out of the gutter, jerks) I have been a loyal Jimmy John’s patron ever since they opened in Muncie when I was in school. Inevitably, someone in this argument will side with Subway and will point to their “better bread”, which might I add is debatable, at best, and completely incorrect in practice. What makes a sandwich place great is the stuff in the middle. The meat. The cheese. The veggies. And that same principle is what makes the first three games of Ball State’s 2014 schedule so difficult to eat. Our schedule sandwich has tasty treats like Colgate and Indiana State, but the heart of the early season triumvirate is what’s between those cupcake pieces of bread… a pissed off, Top 25, Power 5 conference contender that would love to beat the piss out of a MAC team, given that the Hawkeyes have lost two straight to the Mid-American Conference in the likes of Central Michigan (2012) and Northern Illinois (2013). MUST WE CONTINUE TO PAY FOR THE SINS OF THOSE TWO PROGRAMS?
Of course, this isn’t to say that Iowa and Ball State don’t have their own history. It’s bloody. It’s terrible. It’s cringe-worthy if you’re a Cardinals fan, but it is history, all the same. Two times BSU has traveled to the not so friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium and the 70,000+ Iowa fans that congregate there and both times was something I like to affectionately call “a f**king trainwreck”. 2005 saw Shonn Greene’s first game as a Hawkeye go for 116 yards and 2 TDs en route to a 56-0 drubbing. Fun fact: That was a game marred by the infamous Textbookgate at BSU which led Brady Hoke to run afoul of the NCAA and have to sit seven starters. The chance for redemption came for BSU in 2010, but of course, that was also a shower shanking as Iowa laid a 45-0 beating on BSU. The best news was how the Cardinals made Ricky Stanzi and Adam Robinson look like Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson respectively. Two games, zero points scored, 101 points given up. Streaks are made to be broken tho-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… Sorry, I thought I could get through that with a straight face.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
In truth, Iowa has always been Iowa. And what Iowa is, is a consistently good football team. Save for the occasional blip on the radar (like 2012’s 4-8 season) you can pretty much set your watch by the Hawkeye football team. 2013? 8 wins, Outback Bowl. 2011? 7 wins, Insight Bowl. 2010? 8 wins, Insight Bowl. 2009? 11 wins, Orange Bowl. Suffice to say, Iowa’s consistency has been pretty stellar and something most teams would give one of their collective testicles for. Of course, far be it for Iowa to be happy about that. Each year, much like the leaves falling, the temps dropping, or me getting inappropriately inebriated at some sort of athletic event, the mob of people clamoring for Kirk Ferentz’ job hits fever pitch. Waaaaahh… we only won 11 games this year. Waaaaahhhhh… we didn’t compete for a national title. Waaaaahhhh… we missed two bowl games since 2001.
The Man Who Wears the Headset
Good old Kirk Ferentz. The thing I like about Ferentz is that he’s never a Spurrier-esque prick, despite being able to be one given the successes and stature that he enjoys. He’s the most tenured Big 10 head coach, has been at his current job since 1999, and is the second-winningest coach in program history behind Hayden Fry. 15 years, 11 bowls, and 6 of them wins! Ferentz just goes about his business, doesn’t rock the boat, and keeps thing steady as she goes. And frankly, there’s honor in that. You don’t see Kirk hanging on the top of an RV with a Coors Original Spurrier-style or sitting on a golf cart eating cold Papa John’s like Urban, and frankly, I’m way ok with that. He seems like the kind of guy who would house sit for you, do your laundry, stock your pantry, and scrub your tub. What a swell fella.
Players and Stats of Note
I don’t think I’m revealing trade secrets here when I say that BSU has sometimes struggled against major conference opponents and their rushing attack. Iowa only has four running backs (Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock, and LeShun Daniels) in their stable that could all easily go for 1500 yards if they were the featured solo back. So that’s awesome. They also have an offensive line that has skill, size, and depth, with only one new starter so that’s really just delightful as well. The only even moderate question mark is the passing attack with QB Jake Ruddock and his receiving corp. Of course, Iowa (and every other team) doesn’t need to pass much when playing with a lead, so BSU getting out in front however possible is mandatory.
The Iowa defense’s question mark comes at linebacker, but with the skill of their defensive line (Carl Davis, Louis Trinca-Pasat, Drew Ott, and Mike Hardy) it probably won’t be exploited frequently against the Cardinals. However, if Quake Edwards and the offensive line for BSU can bust through to the second level, there are opportunities for success.
If Iowa Football Was a Musician…
Consistent and reliable for the most part, but always worth watching just in case something off the wall happens. You hearken back to the Orange Bowl season and Ricky Stanzi basically telling you to love America or get the hell out, and no season since has every quite lived up to the hype. Reminiscent of Chis Martin and the boys with every record released since A Rush of Blood to the Head. Congrats, Iowa. You are Coldplay.
How Worried Are We?
The last time we issued a bulletin for the OTP Threat Level in regard to the Hawkeyes, we had no choice but to go CODE ARGYLE. Unfortunately, when that warning is followed by a 45 point pantsing, there really is no justifiable reason to lower it. As such, batten down the hatches, chirpers, because it is CODE ARGYLE once again.
A few years ago, I would have thought any matchup against a Power 5 Conference opponent would result in a Cardinal loss. It was, after all, the way things worked in Muncie. Then came a win against Indiana. Then a win against South Florida. Then last year a victory on the road against Virginia! Cardinals fans have gotten a taste of what beating a “name” school feels like and we want it. We want it bad. If this was last year, I’d say 50-50 odds at worst that BSU walked out of Kinnick with a W and in truth I’d have probably made BSU the favorite. But alas, this isn’t last year, and some stories don’t have happy endings.
I could be a fanboy and ignore common sense. I could tell you how BSU is the bestest team in the entire world and we’re going to beat Iowa’s candyasses from pillar to post, pink locker room be damned. I could tell you how Pete Lembo is so good of a coach that this baby is in the bag. But that would be ignoring some pretty sizable things like two new coordinators, a new sophomore starter at QB, and a relatively undersized and unproven defensive line. Throw all that in a blender and the concoction you come out with isn’t an enjoyable one. As a collective fanbase, our hopes for the Iowa contest should revolve somewhere in the neighborhood of “respectable showing” and “injury-free afternoon”. The best news of all is after being outscored 101-0 in the last two meetings, it’s not like it can get a lot worse.
Usually OTP doesn’t play well with others, but that can’t be said about our interactions with our blog buddies from Iowa who run (in my opinion) the perfect example of what a blog is supposed to be. Factual, funny, and always entertaining, in the lead up to Iowa-Ball State, BlackHeartGoldPants needs to be on your daily must-read list. Along with OTP. And maybe Craigslist. You know, for the for sale section. Yes. That.