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On Ball State Football, CFB Playoffs, and Clemson Punters

OTP Rucks ReactionWell, hello there, friend. How are you? Enjoying your pre-holiday festivities? That’s delightful. Yes, it’s been a while but that isn’t without reason. Frankly, this football season left a quite sour taste in my mouth, and it’s hard to be my usual beacon of positivity and Card-riffic fanfare when you are oscillating somewhere between a murderous rage and general befuddlement about how and why this season went so off the rails. I’ll be the first to admit that my preseason prediction with Jason on the OTPcast of 10-2 was being my usual extremely optimistic self, but not even in my most negative thoughts did I see 3-9 as a real possibility. I would have bet darn near anything I had that at worst the Cards were 5-7 and even then I’d feel like it was a sucker bet for whomever was on the other end of the wager.

So now I, like most Cards fans, sit and grumble about the 2015 campaign as the gap between the Cardinals and the upper echelon of the MAC continues to widen. For whatever reason, the Cards just can’t seem to crest the hill. Conference brethren BG, NIU, and to some extent others seem to be able to consistently win. Wins that come regardless of personnel, coaches, and details. Year in, year out, W after W. That hasn’t been Ball State in the past, isn’t Ball State now, and frankly, may never be Ball State, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.

Speaking of coaches, no news out of the nest on coaching shake ups, additions, or reorganizing. Admittedly, it has only been a week or so since the Cards’ last game, but I would be shocked if there wasn’t a shake up of some sort on the coaching staff. If there isn’t, there’s your sign that Coach Pete Lembo (CPL) has decided it’s ride or die with the group he has, and while noble and loyal, may be the decision that years from now people point back to as the tipping point of when things really went south.

The key thing now is holding a recruiting class together and somehow figuring out how to cobble together an offseason that will set this group who remains up for success in 2016. The excuses this year were ready-made in a tough schedule, two relatively new coordinators, so on and so on. But with each year that passes, the excuses get smaller and smaller. 2016 is a critical year for this program, this staff, these players, and this fanbase. A successful season means 2015 was a blip on the radar and the prior years when everyone was ready to sell off Letterman memorabilia to raise money to keep CPL is the norm. A season that doesn’t meet expectations says that mediocrity may very well be the new norm. Another disaster like this season and I don’t even want to think what that’s going to look like. The Cards’ fanbase is small but mighty, and when it’s angry mobbin’ time, we do it with the best of them.

Regardless of the outcomes, it’s going to be a fall not to miss.

The Playoff
Well, whoopy-ti-do we got ourselves a final four! Fans of Clemson (more on them later), Alabama, Michigan State, and Oklahoma can now lord their playoff appearance over their non-playoff-participating-friends. Is this group the four best teams? Eh. Cases could be made for probably three or four others (Stanford the most notable) but on the whole, I’d say those four  are just as qualified as any other. My gut says the final will be Oklahoma-Alabama, but Michigan State has seemed like a team of destiny most of the year. Hard to pick against the Sabanbot though.

Dabo Screams at a Punter, the World Explodes
In case you didn’t see the ACC Championship game on Saturday, you missed Clemson’s punter deciding to fake a punt. The aftermath…

Right on cue and predictably so, the world seemed to explode immediately with an undercurrent of “Dabo is so mean!” or “How can he treat a player like that?!”, all of which makes me weep for our society if that’s what we’ve come to. Andy Teasdall, though I’m sure a delightful human being and great punter, decided to freelance a play in a championship game where his teammates and coaches were counting on people playing as one. That’s not championship football, it’s not a winner’s attitude, and it’s selfish. That, in my mind, isn’t up for debate. The outcry is what is most unnerving and makes me wonder if this is more placation for the fragile snowflakes today’s youths. Did the punter’s feelings get hurt? Too bad. Don’t be a selfish asshole and life dramatically improves for you. Best you learn that now, Princess.

The amount of coddling and insulation from failure or critique for students of today is one of the biggest cancers in higher education. It is a breeding ground of students that are neither equipped to handle failure nor capable of solving their own problems. We are doing a disservice to students when we don’t prepare them for the world, a world that on the whole is a cold, heartless, and cruel place that cares approximately dick about your feelings. Don’t like your place in the world? Change it. Don’t like how you get treated? Address it. Don’t be bitter, be better. And don’t blame the people who are trying to make that so.


These Seniors Have Earned Your Attendance

OTP Rucks ReactionIt’s become the emotional appeal of programs the nation over to talk about how the graduating senior class should be appreciated and thanked for their service and effort each year on Senior Day. Parents get flowers, student-athletes get jerseys, and everyone gets a nice round of applause before the game. It’s a feel good moment to be sure, but for this year’s graduating Ball State seniors, it’s something way more than feel good. It’s amazing. And it’s certainly worth your rear end in the seat on Friday afternoon.

For 13 men on Friday, it will be the last time they play a snap at Scheumann Stadium. It will be the last time the Pride of Mid America will play them off with the Alma Mater. It will be the last time they hear a chorus of chirps on third downs. For all, it won’t be their final game. There are still bowl invites to sort out, scouting reports to pore over once an opponent has been named, and swag bags to collect from sponsors. But for most, after that yet to be determined bowl, their career in pads is over. And what a long strange career at BSU it has been.

The best sports stories are ones about redemption, transition, and overcoming obstacles. I’d say our redshirt seniors have that in spades. Cardinals like Jamill Smith, Matthew Page, Connor Ryan, and Zane Fakes had a front-row seat to perhaps the most tumultuous five years that a program can endure. Recruited by Coach Hoke who leaves before they step foot on campus, coached by Coach Parrish who was fired midway through their freshman campaign, and now coached three years by Coach Lembo having gone to two Bowls all while having a 12-2 season followed up by a 2-10 season, and a new untested unproven head coach go 6-6 in his first season and only build from there. The stories those young men could tell.

For our 4-year Cardinals, like Keith Wenning, Jordan Hansel, Nathan Ollie, Jeffery Garrett, and Joel Cox they had the unenviable task of replacing legends at their positions. Shoes belonging to the likes of Nate Davis, Michael Switzer, Brandon Crawford, Drew Duffin, and Koreen Burch were all needing to be filled and filled they were. Even the walk ons and transfers like Joseph Fazio, Keith Lee, Kenneth Lee, and Jonathan Newsome all provided valuable contributions, some more visible than others, but exceptionally valuable all the same.

It speaks volumes to why myself and many other fans feel such a connection and kinship with this particular bunch of Cardinals. These are not student-athletes that I feel embarrassed to say represent my two degrees on the field each Saturday. These are not a group of student-athletes who forget the first qualifier in that hyphenated description. These are not a group of men that I worry will do something foolish to tarnish the name of our university, because they get that it’s a shared thing. That it is an “our” and not a “mine” or “yours” means everything.

Hard times creates hard character, and this group has that covered. Unlike the feelings I’ve gotten in interactions from student-athletes at football factories down south, these Cardinals understand that there’s more to it than what your typical automatic qualifier is concerned about. There’s a purity in it. There’s a fundamental goodness about not just biding time until your NFL dollars are ready to be spent. As archaic as it may be, most of these men play for the name on the front, the Cardinal on the helmet, and the other men in the locker room doing the same.

There’s an honor in that. It’s worthy of support. It’s something that should be celebrated, thanked, and cheered. And you have the opportunity to do just that on Friday at 1pm. I know the reasons why you aren’t easily able to are numerous. It’s a holiday weekend. You may be traveling. You may have family in town. There may be a Wii on sale somewhere that you feel the need to hipcheck an octogenarian for. I get it. I do. But I’d like to think that the entertainment that not just the seniors but the entire team has brought to us this season is worth spending a couple of hours on the road for. It’s worth all of us, myself included, sitting in the stands in a cold Scheumann Stadium with the rest of the thankful few who are lucky enough to call themselves Cards fans for an afternoon in tribute to those who have sacrificed time and body to make my Saturdays that much more enjoyable.

And I did say I’d be sitting in the stands. Thanks to this site, I am fortunate enough to attend games with media access in the pressbox or the sidelines. Not on Friday. You see, there’s a phrase called “working media” that means my ability to cheer for the Cards has to be tamped down. 70 yard bomb from Wenning to Snead? I can shake my head and grin but that’s it. Clapping? Forget it. Cheering? Can’t happen. And though sitting in the climate controlled media room at Scheumann Stadium may be better for my core temp, I just don’t think these seniors deserve it. This team deserves a clap or three and vocal support. And you just can’t do that in the pressbox.

Homecoming Flashback: Dave Letterman’s Biff on Campus [VIDEO]

OTP Rucks ReactionHomecomings at BSU hold a special place in my heart. There’s a definite buzz around campus for one. As a member of a fraternity we were always paired with other greek letter organizations resulting in great fun and good times for two. Perhaps most important, it was remarkably easy to find an alum who was happy to buy you a few frosty beverages at Scotty’s or BW3’s and relive “the good old days” with a current BSU undergrad. It was always the best week of the year to be a Cardinal.

In 2001, Homecoming was extra special for me as it was my final lap around BSU’s campus in my senior year. We were also playing host to the nationally ranked Toledo Rockets, and after the swamp of suck we had to endure my first few years in Muncie, it would be nice to go out on a high note. Adding to the extra special feel on campus was an extra special visitor, one Biff Henderson, he of Late Show with David Letterman fame. If you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it for a while, check out the video of Biff’s visit below…

The memories in this video are massive. President Brownell, Talmadge Hill, Biff leading the Pride of MidAmerica in the fight song, Homecoming bed races with some familiar faces for me, and upsetting the Rockets. The goal posts were torn down by an angry student mob and walked down Bethel into the Duck Pond, where a group of fine upstanding young gentlemen retrieved them and proceeded to hack it up as a souvenir, a piece of which still sits in my office today. It was a great memory, a great Homecoming, and here’s to some more made this weekend.

Does the Oklahoma State Scandal Surprise Anyone?

Oklahoma State mascotFor those of you that have been off Twitter or the internet lately, you’ve probably missed the big story of the last few days in that Oklahoma State has apparently been paying players, sexing up potential recruits, allowing uninhibited drug use, and letting people no-show for easy As and such in class. You know, just your normal run of the mill college athletics story. Before you go further and read how I think this entire thing has met with a shocking amount of apathy, you’re probably going to want to read the Sports Illustrated piece here.

It’s both shocking and not, in that a large majority of football fans are giving a collective “Meh…” sort of response. Some have written it off as former players and/or journalists with an axe to grind simply giving the Cowboys their come-uppance in the pages (web and otherwise) of a sports magazine. Some others have met this “bombshell” with a lack of surprise and perhaps a sense of expectation that when enough rocks are kicked over within any major athletic program, sooner or later, some things are going to come scurrying out from underneath them. Perhaps the scandals at SMU, Miami, and Penn State have desensitized all of us to what constitutes the “head for the hills” end of days meteor of a scandal. I’d say if a salacious story about sex, drugs, and hundred dollar handshakes doesn’t get the collective fanbase of college athletics in a tizzy then it may be time to just detonate the whole damn thing and start over.

The cash payments? I can deal with those. Perhaps that’s because I’m largely in favor of giving some sort of compensation to the athletes that pump billions of dollars into the collegiate athletics environment through their effort, injuries, and labor. Granted, it’s against the rules as they are written now, and that’s a shame. But let’s not forget all of us break laws on a daily basis when we find them to be baseless, useless, or completely against what we believe. Roads that I think are completely safe, I speed down. Times I hop in the car to grab a Diet Coke from McDonalds (the best Diet Cokes on the planet) I may not even throw on my seatbelt because it’s just down the road. My point with both those examples are they are decisions that fly in the face of what the “law of the land” or those that make it tell me is right and correct. Some people may find the drug laws of America foolish, and thus, they’re prone to Sponge Bob marathons and killer bong rips. The point is everyone has a sliding scale of where they are comfortable based on what they believe to be truly right with a sprinkling of what they can get away with.

The same goes for football. I subscribe to the theory that it’s a Mendoza Line of crimes and punishment where the payoff has to justify the risk. And guess what boys and girls: As the payoff (both monetarily and otherwise) skyrockets with a new playoff system and such do you think the number of schools attempting to skirt the rules (or outright shatter them) to get their piece of the pie is going to decrease or increase? Exactly.

The feel good sexy time allegations? Zero problem with those, assuming Les Miles or whomever else championed this female staff of hostesses wasn’t walking around demonstrating the strength of his pimphand or wearing large fur coats. Could it be that young female students who spend time around elite level athletes in prime physical shape and full of confidence and swagger just like a good old fashioned romp in the sheets from time to time? After living for nearly a decade in the DC metro area, sometimes it really is easy to just say who you work for and watch the potential suitors line up. I can only imagine the experience is similar when you bust out your Scout or Rivals rankings and reveal your six-pack abs. Same goes for the drug allegations. Welcome to normal college student behavior, athlete or otherwise.

The drugs, sex, and money will draw people in and they’ll get the headlines, tweets, and commentary. Because those things are saucy and racy, and the same society that made a national bestseller out of some older woman being handcuffed to her bed posts takes far more interest in those behind closed doors sorts of things because that’s the easy thing to point to and say, “Sports has gotten out of control. STOP WITH THE SPORTS. BURN THEM ALL AT THE STAKE.” That would be a foolish thing to draw from the payouts, hook ups, and reefer, because it’s skipping over the fact that the same education that most use to justify young men flinging their bodies into one another with very little regard for theirs or their target’s is what is being shot to hell because of big time athletics.

Players not going to class and still making As? Players majoring in things that have no real requirements and/or expectations? Tutors writing players’ papers or assignments? All those things have went on other places and probably went on here, but that’s not what anyone will worry about, largely because no one gives a good God damn about anything even remotely resembling academic pursuits of their athletes. Why was Myron Rolle featured so often on College Gameday? Was it because his achievements in the classroom were so notable and honor worthy that they felt the need to mention he was a potential Rhodes Scholar on every broadcast?  Or was it because most of the time, people who watch the games care very little about a player’s academic pursuits at all.

And that’s the real sad thing about all of this. If we’ve gotten to a state as a fanbase where things like academic integrity and academic fraud don’t even register on the Richter scale of fan outrage, then we need to figure out what the hell we are doing as a collective entity of college football playing institutions. Either the players that entertain us are student-athletes or they aren’t. If they’re student-athletes then the first little identifier in their classification means that that’s the priority and the hammer should be dropped on Oklahoma State. If it isn’t, then I’ll just assume they aren’t student-athletes at all and are more athlete-students. And thus, paid. Either way the system improves. But all this wrist-slapping and non-punishment punishments have led us to this place… where the real issues are overshadowed by TMZ-worthy scandals. I can’t say I blame those in power… the flashy issues are much easier to ignore and allow the flawed ridiculous system to carry on unimpeded.

Some Thoughts on Army

army football logoOn Saturday, Ball State returns to the field for a showdown with Army as the Black Knights get to visit the booming metropolis of Muncie, Indiana and attempt to invade Scheumann Stadium. Each time BSU plays a service academy, and it has been frequent since I’ve covered the team, it puts OTP in sort of a weird situation. As anyone who regularly reads this site knows, from time to time, we like to veer our pregame festivities into the absurd and ridiculous with things like “Separated at Birth” or other tomfoolery at our opponents’ expense. When the Cards play a service academy though, that gets put on pause.

As someone with a considerable amount of family who have served, I would just feel a little queezy poking fun at the individuals who protect my ability and freedom to come on this blog and do just that. I am fairly certain that’s the exact definition of biting the hand that feeds you. With some opponents, I don’t feel bad at all. In fact, some opponents I almost feel like it’s my duty and responsibility to have a chuckle or two at their expense. The same sort of “Come back and bite you” karma may apply when we take our shots at Buffalo, but having my french fries overcooked or my change given incorrectly out of the drive thru is a chance I’m willing to take.

Some initial thoughts on the Black Knights…

  • I’m a big proponent of trying to glean as much as possible from a team’s performance so far in the season. Granted, there is only one game to point to for Army, but the Black Knights were less than impressive against Morgan State. Only beating the FCS Bears 28-12 in their season-opener, I expected at least statistical dominance from Army which never really came. They were breaking in a new QB in Angel Santiago (who did account for 3 TDs on the ground) but it was far from the overwhelming rush total you’d expect when Army and their triple option take on an FCS school.
  • Speaking of the triple option, for whatever reason, BSU seems to handle the funky throwback offensive scheme exceptionally well. Whether it be Navy or Army, BSU always pleasantly surprises me with how they don’t get thrashed and gashed. You’d expect a tricky offense to pregame for to create some headaches, but the Cards have been far better against the option than the spreads of CMU or NIU.
  • The best way to create havoc for an option attack is to get penetration from the defensive line, which BSU showed against Illinois State it is very capable of. Army’s hamstrings of military physical fitness means you aren’t going to find a behemoth offensive line to have to navigate. What you are going to have to navigate is a pulling guard or tackle that is significantly quicker than said behemoths the D line will usually go up against. Army’s offensive line averages around 6’1″ and 250 pounds. Compare that with BSU’s defensive line (Newsome, Ollie, Cox, and Miles) and BSU has a size advantage at every position. That size advantage will ideally allow for penetration and chaos for the linebackers to play assignment football, critical for the option.
  • The slow grind it out option also creates some issues for Army though, namely being an inability to come back from a significant deficit quickly and having a considerably higher risk of turnovers. In their first game, the Black Knights jumped out early to a 14-0 lead and showed how an early lead with an option team can be infuriating for opposing teams. Quite simply, your touches as an opposing offense are significantly limited to try to overcome that deficit. If they get down however, the reverse is true. The option attack (barring significant breakdowns from the defense) doesn’t usually result in quick scores or short drives. It’s a war of attrition. But that attrition comes with a high risk/reward. Anytime you have a first-year starter at the reigns of an offense predicated on reading defenses and making decisions and/or pitches, it can create issues for Army. They had one of the best in the business last year with Trent Steelman, and Angel Santiago certainly had a nice opener. But comparing the Morgan State defense to Ball State is like comparing baseball bats to watermelons.
  • And speaking of that completely odd comparison, the same is true when comparing the grind it out option attack from Army and the Lembo spread from BSU. And with that difference in offensive attacks, Army’s defense leaves itself vulnerable to various issues. At its most basic core, the Army defense (known as a Flex package) allows for various players to shift around to best meet the needs of the defense. For example, a rover can drop down into the box to provide a bolstered run attack, or a defensive lineman can drop back into a linebacker type role to allow for better pass coverage from the secondary. For the BSU rushing game to be efficient, the offensive line needs to occupy the defensive tackles as best they can, which then means instead of a linebacker plugging a rushing lane, it’s essentially a defensive back that may not like what Jahwan Edwards will do to him. Same is also true for the underneath routes which may be covered by a defensive lineman rather than a linebacker in the slant routes or unders. On the backend of the defense is usually a single safety in a de facto cover 1 when multi-receiver sets are used, thus freeing up go routes in often times single coverage which makes Willie Snead even more dangerous than he already is. What kind of offenses benefit from this package? Teams that have a QB capable of solid decision making and an offensive coaching staff capable of schematic adjustments to exploit weaknesses and mismatches, which BSU does indeed have.
  • The most important goal for BSU, outside of a victory, needs to be to escape the game relatively unscathed with the injury bug. Option attacks and their pulling offensive lineman, low blocks, etc. usually result in considerable dings, sprains, and tweaks and occasionally something far more drastic. Obviously a W is the most important goal week in and week out, but an exceptionally close second is not being the walking wounded before the first road trip of the season to North Texas next week.
  • I am a huge supporter of BSU playing the service academies whenever possible, and think it’s one of the coolest road trips our student athletes will ever get to be a part of. When I was living outside Washington, DC I was fortunate to attend a few games at the Naval Academy and it never failed to leave me a little goosebump-y when the Midshipmen came marching in and took their place in the stands. People can talk all they want about “gameday experiences” at major programs like Clemson, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, etc. and those are all amazing to be a part of, I’m sure. But watching the likes of Army come in is just on a whole different level. This year is a home game, but next year is on the road. If you get the chance to go, do it. You won’t regret it. ‘Merica.

Aside from the action on the field, I’ll also have my eyes on the stands on Saturday, as the fan turnout to me is one of the most interesting side stories of the game. After 16,000+ on opening night (but with a decent amount of ISU people) I’m curios if BSU can crack the 18k mark. To me, that’s a watershed type of number and should definitely be the goal. It’s not a special holiday weekend, a majority of the students went home last weekend for Labor Day, and the weather in Muncie appears to be good. 18k for Army and with a good chance of returning to Muncie on the 28th at 4-0 could yield crowds in excess of 20,000. And that’s a quite good thing. But it starts with the Black Knights on Saturday. Respectfully of course, as they are the future protectors of our freedoms, but I hope we smack that ass.

Illinois State a Barometer for the Rest of 2013

With any luck, we'll see this about 10:30 on Thursday.

With any luck, we’ll see this about 10:30 on Thursday.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Here comes another rah-rah type of column from OTP”. Or, if you’re a national sportswriter with a gigantic axe to grind with OTP, you’ll accuse us of “shilling for the administration”. I’d say it’s none of the latter and only some of the former. Excited? Sure. Positive? Yep. Blind faith throwing reality out the window? Nope. Been there, done that in 2009.

On Thursday evening, BSU opens their 2013 campaign against Illinois State in a matchup made for ornithologists as the Redbirds travel to Muncie to take on the Cardinals. It is far from a premier game, white out be damned. The Redbirds (despite being in the top 10 of FCS in some polls) don’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents. They’re FCS. We’re FBS. This isn’t insanity. THIS. IS. MUNCIE. (Then we kick someone down a hole if we’re really going for effect)

Detractors of the Cardinals will point to some struggles against recent FBS powers like Liberty and New Hampshire as an indicator that the Cardinals are vulnerable. They’ll say it’s a similar sort of team as 2009 with an unproven offensive line, significant questions on defense, and a top-tier FCS program catching the Cards at the exact right time. Those people are morons. And they probably root for Indiana, which would explain their inability to recognize good football since it’s such a foreign concept for them. For those needing a definitive statement, the differences between 2009 and 2013 for Ball State are the same as the differences between a beat up leather sofa and Kate Upton. Quote me on that, boys and girls.

FBS vs. FCS games don’t get the Vegas treatment with lines or odds, but if you held a gun to my head and made me put a point spread down, I’d say BSU would be favored by 10.5 or so. That’s the line that would make me at least take a beat before taking the Cardinals. So while I do expect a win, it’s the margin that I will look at in terms of guiding my expectations for the remainder of the season.

If Pete Lembo and company come out and lay the wood to Illinois State in a good old-fashioned season-opener throttling, then I will stand even firmer in my prediction that 10 wins in the regular season should be the baseline. If BSU struggles but pulls away late, then I’d say 10 wins or so may be the ceiling rather than the floor. If it’s a last second heroic type win for BSU, then I’m going to invest in Maalox stock because the fanbase is going to have a bumpy ride in 2013. A loss for BSU in the season opener would literally make for one of the hardest weeks on the site and I’m sure a fanbase that overreaction and hyperbole would be the order of the day. Let’s all hope that last one doesn’t happen. I’m not sure I could take it.

Some things I’ll be watching for in this season opener:

  • Protection from the Oline: I know it’s not politically correct to say that FCS and FBS are all that different, but if BSU can’t keep Keith Wenning’s jersey clean against an FCS team (even a good one) then I begin to sweat a bit as the season draws on. Same goes for opening running lanes for Jahwan Edwards. If you can’t get it done against FBS competition, I get nervous. I understand there are FBS transfers on ISU’s roster but this is a team BSU needs to have their way with solely through brute force and exerting their will. Jordan Hansel’s injury and questionable status means there are no returning starters for BSU in the offensive trenches. It’s time to step up, young men.
  • Pressure from the Dline and coverage from the secondary: In a similar sort of vein, if the defensive line fails to capitalize on one of the smaller o-lines they’ll see this season and the secondary can’t throw lockdown coverage on the Redbird passing attack, then it makes me dread the Toledo and Northern Illinois contests further down the schedule.
  • Precision and awareness: In some season openers, teams look anything but crisp, sharp, and ready. Pete Lembo has preached since his arrival the attention to detail that has won the Cards more games than they should have. I fully expect this to be easy to see, but it bears mentioning. A team that struggles with playcalls, getting in correct formations, executing routes, etc. in game one is a team that usually will struggle with that sort of detail work all season.
  • That killer instinct: The best teams don’t ever take their foot off the throttle. That’s what I hope we see on Thursday night. Ideally, the BSU attack is relentless, the defense all-encompassing, and the special teams precise. If there’s a sizable lead, keep on going for the jugular. That sort of instinct is what 2008 had. It’s what 2009 didn’t (among many other things). I want to see players, coaches, fans, and staff with that dog in ’em.

The above four things go the way I expect them to and BSU will blow that fictional line right out of the water.

Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I am blinded by fanlust for the Cards. Maybe I’m ignoring things that I’d point to in another team and say, “This is a problem for these guys and why I question their chance of significant success.” But try as I might, that’s not happening with this team. Positives beget positives. Questions have easy answers. Levels of success we only whisper about are starting to pick up in volume, intensity, and potential. This Cardinals team is going to be something special. And it all starts Thursday night with Illinois State.