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!
In college athletics there are varying degrees of fierce when it comes to mascots. I have had the misfortune of working and attending some of the weakest. There was Ball State, where even though the Cardinal is the fiercest robin-sized bird it doesn’t strike terror into the hearts of opponents. I followed that with Maryland, home of the diamondback turtle known as a terrapin. God love Maryland, they embraced it and even played to it, with a slogan of “Fear the Turtle!”. But thankfully, I have never had to go to class or an athletic contest knowing that my mascot was the platanus occidentalis, or what non-tree people refer to as the Sycamores.
FunFact!: Indiana State students selected the name through a contest. Most believe students voted for it as a joke, thinking there was no way it could win. It did.
FunFact2!: ISU realized that having a Sycamore tree for a mascot was about as lame as could be, so they changed it. To…. the Chiefs! Complete with an offensive native American caricature and everything! Stellar job on that one!
FunFact3!: Indiana State promptly changed back to the Sycamores. They also created an actual mascot in 1995, known as Sycamore Sam and described him as a “furry woodland creature”. He’s also bright blue, in much the same way that weird inbred family from Kentucky has blue skin. I’m not saying Sycamore Sam is an inbred furry woodland creature, I’m just saying he apparently wouldn’t look any different if he was. So there’s that.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
2013 was what some “in the biz” (please use the airquotes when saying that) would call a complete and utter failure. 1-11 and 0-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference. They did beat Quincy 70-7, though, so they certainly got the most out of that lone victory. Quincy may want to consider not dressing the women’s softball team next season for football games. As an FCS team, the Sycamores have the chance to play in the first “playoff system”, not that they would know that. They haven’t made the postseason since 1984.
The Man Who Wears the Headset
<– This, is Mike Sanford. Sanford is in his second season coaching the Sycamores and his 37th year as a football coach. His head coaching record is a fairly unimpressive 17-54 (after a five-year run at UNLV in addition to last year at ISU), but don’t let that number fool you. His pedigree and resume reads like a dream coach. Stops at Utah, Utah State, Louisville, Notre Dame, and USC (where he was also a backup QB and eventual safety on several Rose Bowl teams as an undergrad). Does Mike Sanford have the skill to turn a program around? On paper, yes. But again, sometimes, coordinators that are lighting the world on fire do not a head coach make.
Players and Stats of Note
For the Sycamores, the success of the offense this season falls squarely on senior running back Buck Logan (great name, by the way). Last season saw Logan average over four yards a carry but only 50 yards per game. A new face that could get touches is Cincinnati Bearcat transfer Deionte Buckley. The QB position at ISU also features a Cincy transfer in newcomer Patrick Coyne, but returning starter Mike Perish looks to be the presumptive favorite, given the senior is featured on the Sycamore media guide
Defensively, the Sycamores weren’t awful but they weren’t all that fantastic. Allowing right at 365 yards per game and 36 points per game, that’s not a recipe for success. They return notable players in senior Connor Underwood (All-Conference LB) and Jameer Thurman (DB, runner-up Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year) who have the potential to create issues for a BSU offense that may be either banged up from Iowa or still trying to get their rhythm in a new system.
If Indiana State Football Was a Musician…
This one was surprisingly difficult for me. So I turned to resident OTP musical expert and Muncie bureau chief, Edge. “Hootie & The Blowfish, only with no Hootie. Like when you ask someone to list Indiana colleges, they usually end with, “oh yeah, Indiana State, I always forget that one.” The Blowfish get the same response to the question of who were the great 90s bands.”
How Worried Are We?
Given the lack of offensive firepower, the porous defense, and the inexperience at the head coach position, there is no reason for Cardinals fans to be significantly worried about Indiana State. This isn’t Liberty. This isn’t New Hampshire. This isn’t even Illinois State from recent memory. The OTP Threat Level checks in at Code Green, the second Code Green of the non-conference schedule.
Is it possible that Indiana State pulls an upset? Sure. It’s possible. But as we described in our last piece for Iowa, it’s going to take a Herculean effort from the Sycamores and a significant lack of effort from the Cardinals. There’s the old “Any given Saturday…” logic, but I’d plan for a nice easy Saturday of tailgating, Cardinal touchdowns, and a relaxing afternoon over our in-state brethren.
Surprisingly enough, Indiana State has a very active internet community with Sycamore Pride. It’s essentially the BSUFans for ISU supporters, but to see such a vocal and active virtual gathering place for an FCS crowd is impressive. You can check out the website here or follow them on Twitter @SycamorePride.