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Initial Iowa Thoughts

iowa_hawkeyes_logoWell, that certainly sucked.

I’m not going to go into significant detail tonight about this 13-17 loss at Iowa, because frankly, it wouldn’t be productive and I’d almost certainly regret it in the morning. So, we’re going to hit some high notes and then revisit tomorrow with our “Final Word” post, which is just going to be delightful to write, let me tell you.

First of all, the best of the day was the defense. They played a whale of a game and when you hold a Big Ten team to no offensive touchdowns until roughly 4 minutes to go in the game, you’ve done something. Those who point to the last two Iowa drives as some sort of indictment on the Ball State defense need to have their head examined or need to sit down and let someone explain football to them. Kudos to the defensive unit and it is remarkably unfortunate that the storyline of the game will be the Iowa rally against them and the win. That simply isn’t fair.

Second, I thought the offense today was pedestrian at best, predictable at worst, and the common mantra among the fanbase is to sling arrows at Joey Lynch and Ozzie Mann as two people incapable of moving the ball or having offensive success. Was Ozzie Football great today? No. 15/30 for 129 yards isn’t a stellar stat line but going along with his zero TDs was also his zero turnovers until the ill-fated last drive fumble. Fans that expect a new offensive coordinator and a new redshirt sophomore QB to just pick up right where Rich Skrosky and Keith Wenning left off are fooling themselves. It’s going to take time and let’s try to remember that next week is an FCS opponent in Indiana State and no one in the MAC will be as defensively sound as Iowa. Just something to think about. Is this absolving them of a lion’s share of responsibility for the loss today, no. But it is far too early in their careers to completely write off their potential to succeed.

Third, and it’s a big one, is Iowa did literally everything possible to beat themselves today. It’s easy to point to the nine points they left on the field and the penalties they committed on critical BSU conversions, but that would be grasping the low hanging fruit. Add some turnovers and their own confounding coaching decisions and it’s almost like they didn’t even want to win.

Some will point to this game and say, “Ball State covered!” or had Iowa “on the ropes”, but to be sure, there are some significant concerns about this football team that today brought to light. Are they fixable? Of course. Are they going to be? Well, I guess that’s the answer that will be the difference between enough wins to go bowling over the holidays or not. Final word tomorrow, but for now, it’s a bourbon with a pissed offness chaser because this is one that just slipped away.

If you’ve got thoughts, leave ’em below.

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Know a ’14 Opponent: Iowa

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!

iowa_hawkeyes_logoIowa Hawkeyes

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
IOWA FOOTBALL OUTBACK BOWL ANNOUNCMENTGood 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.

ThreatLevelIowaA 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.

Enemy Recon
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.

A conference split in two

One year ago I wrote a post comparing the MAC to the Big Ten. Using the Sagarin rankings we were able to tell the MAC had some teams that were able to slug it out if they were in the Big Ten. Time to breakdown the rankings to see if the MAC gained any more ground in 2012.

2012 Sagarin rankings MAC vs. Big Ten.

2012 Sagarin rankings MAC vs. Big Ten.

I found it disappointing to locate Northern Illinois at No. 39 being a BCS team. However the weak schedule the Huskies played watered down their ranking. The only top 30 team at the end of the year NIU played was Florida State. Kent State fared worse finishing the year No. 60. The Flashes were knocked again for not playing a single top 30 team.

Ball State comes in at No. 67, ahead of five Big Ten teams. Toledo, Bowling Green, and Ohio follow giving the MAC six teams in the top 75 of the nation. By MAC standards that is striking oil.

That means half the conference is capable of being decent in every conference in the country with two exceptions being the SEC and the Big 12. Seven out of the 10 Big 12 teams finished ahead of Northern Illinois in the Sagarin rankings. Still, having six teams in the top 75 is a big achievement for the MAC. The problem is the bottom half. In 2012 there were 124 schools in FBS so having teams outside the top 124 means they were passed by FCS schools like Indiana State.

Five MAC schools are guilty as charged in No. 125 Miami University, No. 131 Buffalo, No. 146 Eastern Michigan, No. 169 Akron and No. 178 Massachusetts. Their poor rankings are why the top of the MAC was dragged down. Northern Illinois played the bottom four MAC teams, FCS UT Martin, and Army. Those six cupcakes gave Northern Illinois a No. 121 strength of schedule ranking.

The most successful MAC team with a challenging schedule were your 9-4 Ball State Cardinals. Ball State had the second toughest strength of schedule at No. 73 and was deprived of the opportunity to play Akron and UMass. Eastern Michigan was the victim of the MAC’s toughest schedule at No. 71. Losing to FCS Illinois State made going 2-10 even more painful.

While the top teams in the MAC are cruising, other teams are sinking and holding the MAC back.

While the top teams in the MAC are cruising, other teams are sinking and holding the MAC back.

So what does all this mean? If another MAC team is going to make a run at the BCS or the future playoffs a few things will need to happen. One option will be the bottom half of the conference stepping up. Akron and UMass did damage to the BCS rankings of Northern Illinois and Kent State this past season. This could be fixed through those cupcake schools finding wins in non-conference play.

The other option would be the top of the conference gaining more quality wins. In 2012 the only win the MAC scored on a top 30 team in the Sagarin rankings was Ohio’s upset at No. 30 Penn State. The MAC had other wins against BCS conferences but most of those wins came against the basement dwellers of those conferences.

Northern’s run to the Orange Bowl was huge for the conference showing a MAC team can get on the big stage. Now the MAC needs to find a way to sustain it and improve the bottom half. While we are still far away from a MAC school competing for a national title, it is no longer idiotic to suggest it can be done. Never thought we could say that.

Expecting to Win vs. Hoping to Win

This is our street now! Just need Purdue and Notre Dame before we can start charging a boatload for rent.

We are there now.

For the first time in four years I expected Ball State University to win a football game and it came through.

The last time I expected Ball State to win a game was in 2008 prior to the MAC championship against Buffalo. I will spare you the details of that one. Since then I had been merely hoping our Cardinals could pull out a victory.

I hoped for a victory against the MAC’s worst in the Stan Parrish era. I hoped for a victory against FCS New Hampshire and Liberty. I hoped Ball State would at least score 3 points at Oklahoma and Iowa.

Saturday night, as Indiana made a shocking comeback, I still expected Ball State to kick a field goal for the win.

And it freaking happened.

We all knew Ball State needed this one to have a shot at seven wins and bowl game as the journey will be tougher from here on out. Myself, Alan, and pretty much the diehard fans, those who read this blog, knew Ball State was the superior team. The last time I felt that way about Ball State, Nate Davis was under center.

Yes, IU was down to their third quarterback. Yes, Ball State did everything they could to blow their season in the fourth quarter. Yes, Pete Lembo acted up on the sideline making even Kevin Wilson seem rational.

But I could care less now.

For Ball State to beat their bigger in-state rival with a fraction of their budget and resources speaks for how far the program has come. Ball State may never be a BCS team and that is okay. Being able to compete and respected by those BCS teams is the key. You must not be like Eastern Michigan. More on that later.

I expect big things from this football team for the first time in four years and I bet the rest of the fan base does too. Speaking of which…

Will the fans show up?

Ball State: Special Teams Redefined.

This is a HUGE week for the whole attendance problem at Scheumann Stadium. A quality team in South Florida is actually coming to Muncie. There is NO EXCUSE for fans to not come out to this one.

  1. Ball State is coming off a thrilling victory over their in-state rival.
  2. A team like South Florida only comes to Muncie about once every 10 years and that might be pushing it.
  3. It is a Saturday afternoon start so students will have time to sleep in. Alumni will have time to travel from outside areas.
  4. As a September game the weather should be nice.
  5. South Florida will hopefully bring up south Florida women.

Make no jokes, if less than 15,000 fans show then Lembo should walk out and take the first job that comes his way after the game. Over 20,000 fans should be the goal.

The diehards will have to push the casual folks hard this week. Maybe a Facebook event or a Twitter hashtag could help. I am thinking #BSU20K or #FilltheScheu, but just make an added effort this week.

In other MAC news

This is why it is important to be respected by BCS teams. A radio man and former Miami Hurricane player, Dan Sileo, made an epic rant on his struggling team this past week and took a shot at Eastern Michigan in the process. Given the Eagles first three games this season their defense is pretty weak to this. Just a reason why it is important to be respected by the BCS snobs. Starting with a flimsy Indiana team is a start, but for some in the MAC a start is out of reach.

You better respect Ball State on Saturday South Florida. I expect them to do so.

Cards Win! Schott Kicks Hoosiers to Curb

Perhaps a better slogan is “Win Today, as long as I don’t play Ball State”

For the love of God. Cards go up big, I write a post for the win, hover over the publish button. IU shoots their wad on two killer drives, trash the first post, begin to write a loss post, hover over publish button. Cards move ball into IU territory, one-in-a-million pass gets complete, Steven Schott kicks game winning field goal, I do small happy dance and happily start over.

I’ll get to the game tomorrow or perhaps later tonight, but right now I feel like I just did an eight ball and chased it with thirty five Red Bulls. What have I learned?

  • Pete Lembo tosses his hat with Spurrier-esque authority.
  • Steven Schott is quite a good kicker. (Though we already knew this, it’s nice to be reminded)
  • The BSU defense can at times play LIKE A BOSS.
  • Sports karma is a very real thing. That little episode outlined above has pretty much assured me that I will never preemptively write, tweet, or text until there are triple zeroes on the clock.

For now, though, all that matters is IU takes the L (their third straight to this little old teacher’s college in Muncie), BSU is now 2-1, I made a nice little sum of quiche on the contest, and my asshole may never unpucker. For the IU folks who I’m sure were ready to spew forth from their suckholes all sorts of derp-tastic vitriol, I say to you the same thing I say to your team… Good job. Good effort.

IU Hate Week still undefeated. You know, in case you were wondering. 3 straight. And counting.

CounterIntelligence: The IU Edition

From time to time, when able, we like to reach across the aisle to our brethren in the blogosphere and gain some insight about that week’s opponent. This week is no different, as we were approached by John from CrimsonQuarry about a Q&A exchange. As a point of information, despite the good natured fun and shots we take at IU and how we see it as a rivalry, John and his site are a great measured perspective on Hoosier athletics. Granted (and much like BSU) there are vocal groups of fans that don’t necessarily speak for the group, but John does a particularly good job from a blog perspective keeping a pretty objective and rational keel. You can read my responses to John’s questions here, and also peruse the comment section that accuses me of being a fictitious parody. Great fun and not the first time (nor last, probably) that the messageboards and blogs don’t take us seriously. Same thing happened in 2008 and 2011. Those two years worked out well.

1.) Obviously with Tre Roberson being injured that changes things a bit on the IU offensive side of the ball. What do BSU fans need to know about Cam Coffman?

John, CQ: Coffman played one year at the junior college level , at Arizona Western, and had some pretty solid recruiting interest coming out of high school. Although Rivals listed him as a “dual threat” quarterback, he definitely is a pass first QB, and was selected for this offense by offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, who is a Mike Leach protege. He certainly is talented, but I don’t have a sense of how he will respond in his first start. He played well on short notice against UMass, completing 16-22 passes, but obviously UMass isn’t very good.

2.) The BSU offense, especially the running game, seems to be hitting on all cylinders so far. Who are the keys to the IU defense that BSU fans need to be aware of?

John, CQ: Well, IU struggled to contain Indiana State’s Shakir Bell, so win or lose I am sure that the Cardinals will gain a bunch of yards on the ground. IU has experience at the DT positions, with Adam Replogle and Larry Black, Jr., and sophmore Mike Murphy has been solid over the last two seasons at safety. Sophomore Chase Hoobler, a linebacker, played quite a bit as a freshman as well. The defense is still young, and will give up some yards, but at least thus far it has been bend-but-don’t break instead of break-and-break-again.

3.) As one of the most measured and objective IU fans I know, what are your thoughts about Kevin Wilson and the future of IU football? When does the decision point come regarding the future of the program? What are realistic expectations that fans should keep in mind?

John, CQ: Given what you have said on your site about Wilson, perhaps my answer will have you doubting my objectivity. I liked the Wilson hire when IU made it, and I’m still in his corner. Wilson has an excellent background, coming out of the Cradle of Coaches at Miami, helping Randy Walker win a Big Ten title at Northwestern, of all places, and then spending the better part of a decade as the OC for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Obviously, the one piece missing from his resume was head coaching experience, and I think that showed last year. But he’s a smart guy, a great football mind, and has assembled a strong staff, so I do think the program is in good hands. For this season, I expect to see progress but recognize that it may not be accompanied by a major uptick in wins. Next year, I’ll expect to see more wins. As for “the decision point,” I don’t think it’s anywhere close. I think it would take a complete lack of progress for Wilson to get any less than the customary five years, absent a change in the leadership of the athletic department, which I don’t anticipate.

4.) Perhaps least important to the outcome but most important to my morbid curiosity is the IU fan support. Talk a little about the support from the general IU fanbase and what you expect on Saturday night. What would you like to see changed or addressed concerning IU fan participation and buy in?

John, CQ: I think fan support has been fine. IU drew 41,000 for the Indiana State game and I expect a larger crowd considering the weather, the 8 p.m. kickoff, and the opponent (Ball State will bring some fans and IU fans realize this is an important game). Fred Glass has done a great job marketing the program to students and families, and it has paid off so far. I think the program is in a good position, but in the long term, success is going to determine fan support.

5.) Prediction not only for the final score but flow of the game?

John, CQ: I anticipate a high scoring game. Both offenses have looked pretty good, and both defenses pretty suspect. I don’t think it will be easy, but I do think IU will prevail in a back-and-forth affair by something like 42-35.

Big thanks to John for putting this together. If you’re looking for IU information and/or commentary, CrimsonQuarry is a good place to start and really the only place you’ll need to go. Feel free to register for an account there and inform that this site and its leadership are actually real people.

 

The Rivalry that was Self-Inflicted

Forget the loss to Clemson. The main event starts Saturday where Ball State plays some team from Bloomington. For most Ball State fans this is the game of the year. Indiana is in their eyes, our biggest rival.

That should never have been the case.

Just because your colors are the same as Alabama’s does not mean your school is good at football.

On paper Ball State has three rivals for football, (Northern Illinois, Miami U., Western Michigan) four for basketball, (add Butler) and five if you are a obsessed volleyball fan (add IPFW).

All of those schools are either in the MAC or close to Muncie and compete on the same level.

That’s why when people say the Indiana Hoosiers are a rival it’s shocking. The Hoosiers should be on a higher level.

If NCAA conferences were like basic cable the MAC would be the Syfy channel where most television shows are average at best. Sure, a show like “Battlestar Galactica” may come around once a decade but overall  the quality is that of “Ghost Hunters.”

The Big Ten is NBC, where shows have higher budgets, bigger stars, and more viewers. But if you watch copious amounts of television you would know NBC has been rolling out some crappy programming the last several years.

The Southeastern Conference (we’ll call CBS) is kicking the Big Ten’s rear the past decade. NBC no longer has as many shows that are high caliber. If you watched the schmuck they were promoting during their frustrating Olympics coverage you know that too well.

Which brings us to IU football. They were not good even when the Big Ten had its heyday. So when the conference went into the basement IU was pushed out into the sewers. Today, only the upper third of the Big Ten is superior to the MAC. The rest is in danger of losing every time they play a MAC school. People would rather watch “Ghost Hunters” over crap like the “Jay Leno Show.” Conan O’Brien is laughing somewhere.

As much as I want to think Ball State has moved up to IU’s level we know IU did most of this to themselves. Despite superior facilities, and larger budgets Indiana struggles to be even with the Muncie neighbor.

Not helping the matter is that Indiana fans still feel superior. I have been to two football games in Bloomington including the Cardinals loss there in 2007. Indiana fans chanted “IU rejects” to the Ball State sideline.

The fact is I was accepted to IU out of high school. I picked Ball State because it was a better fit and I liked their communications programs. Being a Kentucky fan played a role too.

I am not an IU reject because they accepted me. Many Ball State students and alumni can say the same.

The other game is Indiana’s best of a generation, where the Hoosiers won the bucket and earned a bowl trip thanks to this field goal.

It is ironic that I was a witness to IU’s greatest football moment of the last two decades. From what I can tell, Hoosier fans despise Purdue but still respect them as a Big Ten peer. Respect for Ball State is a different story. Ball State is still a show on the Syfy channel to them that is not worth space on the DVR.

Since the 2007 season, Indiana has been a larger calamity than normal. The hiring of Kevin Wilson has been even worse than the hiring of Stan Parrish at Ball State. The embarrassments include two losses to Ball State to go a long with a 1-11 2011 season. Watch how the Big Ten Network tries hard to cover up the negativity of Indiana’s loss in Lucas Oil Stadium.

The real culprits are IU fans. Their lack of humbleness even though they eat nothing but humble pie every Saturday is frustrating. If IU fans would stop taking so much pride in beating up smaller teams this would not be a rivalry. I guess being better than Ball State is the only thing IU fans can hang their hat in football. If so that it is incredibly sad and it is time take that source of pride out. Let’s see if IU fans can take pride in being better than FCS Indiana State in football? I bet they will find a way.

Hey, I know what it’s like to root for a football team when the school only cares about basketball. Kentucky is the same way but at least Big Blue Nation can point to several winning seasons in a brutal conference. Indiana had Antwaan Randle El and still could not make it to a bowl game.

For Ball State, beating Indiana is no longer about owning a BCS team. It is about shutting up obnoxious IU fans who still do not know their place. That is why just merely winning the game is not satisfactory. I want Ball State to beat the holy hell out of these jokers. If Ball State has a three touchdown lead in the fourth and pulls its starters I will be ticked.

Sportsmanship has no standing in this one. We need to shut these fans up and taking a knee is not going to do it. Hopefully, once they realize that even Ball State can run the score up on them the perceived superiority IU fans have will be gone for good. Or at least until basketball season rolls around.

Sorry for being mean but I’m upset because of this…

What MAC fans should sweep under the rug this week

Quite a bit with little to boast outside of Toledo winning at Wyoming. UMass raised Indiana’s confidence by their incompetence. How can you lose 45-6 at home to Indiana? Indiana State is laughing as most FCS teams would do better. I guess that makes UMass an NAIA school. Even worse, they broke the leg of IU’s quarterback providing IU fans an excuse if Ball State destroys them Saturday. That is two strikes UMass. It should be three because no one wanted you in the league anyway. Can we kick the Minutemen out? Their television market is not worth this.

In other typical news, Eastern Michigan still sucks. How can a team with bowl aspirations get clobbered by Illinois State at home? Sure, Illinois State is one of the better FCS teams but Eastern was suppose to be over this type self destruction by now. Worse, this makes Ball State’s win a week earlier seem incredibly soft.  The only saving grace is that only 7,654 fans were there. The 12,725 crowd in Muncie on Aug. 30 is looks a little better.

Well, time to shut some Hoosier fans up. Are you ready for your colonoscopy Bloomington?

Is the MAC Gaining Ground on the Big Ten?

Writer’s note: This is the third installment of the statistical breakdown series. Here are links to the first Keith Wenning vs. Nate Davis and second, BSU Defense Tackles Misleading Stats, installments.

Fans of MAC teams have known for a while that the Big Ten has been backpedaling and Big Ten fans are finally coming around to admitting it. But many Big Ten fans still see their conference as vastly superior to the MAC.

Time to see how the conferences truly stack up.

If the MAC played Monopoly with the Big Ten. Your move Penn State. Post $50 bail or roll for doubles.

Head to Head Games

The Big Ten crushed the MAC going 11-1 in head to head games. Ball State’s win over Indiana was the only exception. The MAC can claim several moral victories.

Western Michigan lost to Illinois on the road by three and Purdue in a bowl game by five. Temple lost to Penn State 14-10 at home. Toledo failed to score a last minute touchdown from the red zone in their 27-22 loss at Ohio State. Miami University dropped a 29-23 decision at Minnesota. That means five of the 11 Big Ten wins, almost half, were decided by a six points or less.

There were lopsided affairs too. Akron, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan all played at least one Big Ten school each in 2011 and the results were worse than the acting talent in a “Twilight” movie.

The most disappointing loss came from the MAC Champion Northern Illinois.  Northern was pounded 49-7 at Big Ten Champion Wisconsin. The gap between the best team in the Big Ten and the best in the MAC is still as large as it ever has been. The Huskies were not going to win that game but they needed to make it more respectable than that.

The MAC did find success against BCS schools outside the Big Ten. Temple knocked out Maryland 38-7 on the road. Western Michigan went into Connecticut and won 38-31. Toledo was robbed at Syracuse with a blown call on an extra point and went on to lose 33-30 in overtime (cut to Toledo fans shaking their heads).

Bowl Games

The MAC went 4-1 in bowl games this season which is a testament to how deep the conference was in 2011. The Big Ten went 4-6. To be fair, this stat is not a good measuring stick as the Big Ten played SEC schools while the MAC faced Mountain West and Sun Belt teams.  Even though this stat favors the MAC we have to throw it out when comparing the MAC to the Big Ten.

Vs. FCS Schools

The MAC went 12-0 against FCS schools while Minnesota was upset at home for a 9-1 record for the Big Ten. The MAC appears to fumble a game or two to a FCS school every year and your Ball State Cardinals were one of the repeat offenders in previous seasons.

Even 1-11 Akron won their only game against FCS Virginia Military Institute. Say that again. Even Akron won a game against a FCS school. Anything is possible.

Still, this measurement is flawed too as not every FCS school is created equally. This stat only proves that the MAC did their homework in scheduling the right cupcake.

Sagarin Ratings

Now we are talking. The Sagarin ratings are ultimate rating system for college football nerds everywhere. Namely me.

Unlike most polls, the Sagarin ratings compare every FBS and FCS team into one giant list. The Sagarin ratings are somewhat similar to RPI in college basketball.

Here are the rankings for all the Big Ten and MAC schools. The MAC schools are bolded.

First, discard Indiana and Akron. Those two schools are outliers as they were so bad they were virtually disowned by their conferences in 2011.

The theory behind the Sagarin ratings is the closer two schools are in terms of points the closer the game would be if they played on the field. For example, Western Michigan is five points away from Illinois and only three points away from Purdue. The Broncos did lose to those teams but came very close to winning. Western is 19 points away from Michigan and was trashed accordingly 34-10.

From the data we can infer the five MAC bowl teams could do damage in the Big Ten if they played their conference schedule in 2011. Toledo, Temple, and Northern Illinois would have a realistic shot at beating eight of the 12 Big Ten schools (please change the name of the conference). Penn State is only three points away from Toledo and four away from Temple and Northern Illinois. Thus, the top three MAC schools can compete with two-thirds of the BCS conference.

In theory, Ohio and Western Michigan are capable of defeating Illinois on down and maybe Ohio State and Iowa.

That makes five MAC schools the Big Ten does not want to tangle with. Especially when they are paying the MAC schools a truck load of cash to come to their house.

The Big Ten still has an advantage with their four top teams being bulletproof against a MAC school.

The Big Ten had a down year with Ohio State and Penn State ending up on CNN more than ESPN for scandals. Nebraska was making the transition to the conference and will settle in soon. Ohio State with Urban Meyer will be back at the top of the conference in no time. Penn State is a volatile situation and therefore tough to predict.

For the MAC, 2011 was a break out year. If the top teams in the MAC can stay in the top 50 in the Sagarin ratings then more upsets against BCS conference foes will come in 2012. That said the back half of the conference has to improve in order for the national perception to progress.

If the rear of the conference can make some strides in the next few years then maybe a 6-6 MAC team, your Ball State Cardinals, can earn a bowl invite (cue angry Ball State fans writing e-mails to the Akron athletic director).

Big Ten schools beware in 2012. Buying an easy win against a MAC school is getting harder and harder.

Edge-itorial: The Penn State Situation

Editor’s Note – From time to time you’ll find OTP’s resident rocker Edge voicing his opinion on things college football related. Aside from being the producer brains behind the OTPcast, Edge brings it with the written word as well, in the form of Edge-itorials. You know… like editorials. Only better. And Edgier.

John Surma and the Penn State Board of Trustees finally began to right the ship at PSU last night says Edge

Over the past week, we saw and heard as the unknown quickly gave way to horror.

Despite the focus on the Penn State campus that Joe Paterno has been relieved of his duties after 46 seasons and 409 wins, the real tragedy here is what happened to those boys, some of them now in their mid-twenties, at the hands of Jerry Sandusky. It’s difficult to put into words the horrible injustice done to them and their families. The decisions the Penn State board of trustees have made in the past few days have been undoubtedly difficult, but they have also been necessary and important in both helping those families heal.

What didn’t help? The demonstrating/protesting/rioting by a number of Penn State students when word came down that Joe Paterno was fired. It is certainly understandable the feeling of grief that a figurehead who was coaching for over 30 years before they were even born would not be on the sidelines this weekend. Not necessarily an “us and them” type of protest – I am sure the students meant no disrespect towards the victims and their families, but seeing how things unfolded last night easily came across as insulting. Want to protest and march (and occupy) about something? Do it for the victims.

Make no mistake: Joe is not a victim. He had to go. So did Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz. And so does Mike McQueary, who, as of this writing, is still miraculously employed. All of these men, and surely many unnamed others, completely failed those kids and their families, let down their university, and now must have to live with their collective immoralities and inaction.

It is also encouraging that the US Department of Education is to launch a federal investigation of these events that stretch back nearly 15 years, at least as far as we can tell. Again, the university failed those kids, and if it couldn’t hold accountable those adults who were witness to these monstrous acts, it is reassuring that steps are being taken to ensure the future safety of children.

This year certainly started off with some pretty major black eyes for the sport with the Miami and Ohio State debacles. It appeared we were about to live the mid-eighties all over again with these over-the-top stories about prostitutes, tattoos, cars, parties, and abortions. Who would have thought that after weathering that storm that we’d be discussing a nightmare of this magnitude?

Expect to see sweeping changes in the next few weeks at Penn State, and don’t expect to see any familiar faces on the sidelines in 2012. The only thing to do in terms of the football program is to purge and start over. Give the alums, students, and fans of the program a fresh start. And do it quickly. This is an easy decision, and it will undoubtedly get the focus back to what matters.

While this is a college football story for the ages and the end of a seemingly unending era, it does go much deeper and will play out for years to come. I am hopeful that the justice system will prevail and that the cloud of emotions will lift, shifting displaced anger to positive action.

Cards and Hoosiers: A Battle of Unknowns

I spent most of a ten hour drive and the better part of a Friday packed full of rehearsal dinners and other wedding festivities thinking about this particular contest and trying my damndest to wrap my head around the ins and outs of this tilt. It’s BSU-IU, Lucas Oil Stadium, the season opener for both squads, and the excitement is seemingly high on both sides of the fence for the Hoosiers and Cards. What’s also high is the uncertainty, unknowns, and complete mysteries that shroud this contest.

From the offensive outputs, defensive strategies, hell, even the size of the crowd, it’s  all a mystery. You’ve got a better chance of trying to explain exactly what happened with Ronnie Thompson in Muncie than pegging this game correctly in prognostication. So that makes a preview not only tough to write, but ridiculously speculative and usually wildly off base

Predictions may be challenging, but the hopes for this Cardinal team are plentiful. I hope that the offensive line performs the way I know they are capable of. I hope that the receivers showcase their speed and talent. I hope the stable of running backs provide a viable rushing attack and keep the defense honest. I hope that the defensive line and linebackers give some pressure to the Hoosiers and make a bland up the middle rush extremely unsuccessful. I hope the defensive backs perform to their level, one of the best secondaries in the MAC. I hope Sean Baker feasts long and hard on Hoosier souls today when they dare venture into his coverage area. I hope the special teams is a point of pride and not a point of frustration. I hope the fans wearing the right shade of red and white show up in large quantities. I hope the work that Coach Lembo has done on and off the field show results tonight. I hope all this hoping doesn’t make me sound like an elderly African American ex-con released from prison in Maine looking for my wife-killing-but-not-really-banker-friend in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. For the fans going, be safe, be crazy, be Cardinals. For those watching around the globe, be crazier because, you know, the only people that will judge you are the people in your home.

When the proverbial Cardinal rubber hits the Cardinal road, the only thing we know for sure is that this is the first contest of the Lembo era, the return of football for the 2011 season, and the dawning of a new day in BSU football history. Whether that day is sunny and lasts for a while is anyone’s guess, just like the outcome of this game.