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The Last Two Games Critical for Cards Future

Pete Lembo Ball StateFor the last few years this time of year has been joyous around the Pylon as we get ready for the critical season-closing games to determine which bowl the Cards will be heading to, which schools are possibly coming after Coach Lembo, and where some of our Cards are headed in the pending NFL Draft. What a difference a year makes. This season? None of the above. The Cards won’t be bowling over the Christmas holidays unless they take a team trip to Clancy’s, the only people coming after Coach Lembo are the BSU faithful, and as for the NFL, let’s worry about that in the spring. So this season, heretofore known as The Lost Season, is a bit of uncharted water for BSU fans under CPL’s leadership.

Even CPL’s “bad” years were good compared to Stan Parrish and some of Bill Lynch, but this season (barring winning out) will set a new low for CPL in Muncie. Are there reasonable explanations for why this season went off the rails? Of course. Coordinator turnover, youth in critical positions, and an upswing in competition in the MAC are just a few of the many reasons why the fighting football Cardinals have fallen on hard times a bit. Is there a rational write off that this is a fluke season that is a bump in an otherwise smooth road? There is, but the ability to swallow that pill is getting harder and harder as the losses mount and the way in which the losses are achieved sets in.

The lone bright spot in 2015 was Northwestern, a closer than expected loss against a reputable team. Every other loss was either what we expected or far worse, both in terms of score (NIU, WMU) or prestige (Georgia Freakin’ State) and the wins were uninspiring against subpar teams that were closer than they should have been. It hasn’t been a good year, I won’t sugar coat it, and for the first time in CPL’s tenure in Muncie, I am genuinely concerned about the current direction of the program.

The fanbase is at a critical juncture where people are beginning to lose faith. Can you blame them? They’ve been down this road so many times before. A program’s prodigal son has a special season and bolts for the west coast. His replacement, lauded as the conquering hero to promote continuity, falls flat in spectacular speed and fashion. Every time in recent memory that the fanbase, the small dedicated few of Cardinal nation, has gotten their hopes up, reality sets in fast enough to use an egg timer. Until Coach Lembo. Then it appeared that things were trending up on a sustainable arc. It was foundational. It was fundamentals and discipline. It was the “right way”. Then this season happened. And no one had an egg timer handy.

There are two games left this season. The Cards are at Ohio next Tuesday and at home against Bowling Green the Tuesday that follows. BG sits at 7-2, undefeated in the MAC, and are in possession of victories over Maryland and Purdue, both dumpster fires in their own right, but power conference dumpster fires all the same. Ohio (6-4, 3-3 MAC) is a likely bowl team, but they have lost three of their last four, so they are beatable. But those losses were to WMU, BG, and Buffalo, so don’t get too excited.

If you forced me to set percentages, I’d say there’s a 74% chance the Cards close at 0-2, a 25% chance the Cards split at 1-1, and a 1% longshot that they beat both Ohio and BG, both of those last percentages set because it’s likely BG has nothing to play for given their pending MAC title game berth. For the sake of the program, CPL, the coaching staff, etc. I certainly hope that 26% chance happens. If not, it’s going to be a tumultuous, though well-deserved, offseason.

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