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IU Hate Week… Engage

It’s IU Week, and as such, time to pull back the curtain on another HateWeek at OTP. We always get asked whether we actually hate IU, and the short answer is no. The much longer answer is that IU is a great school with a great athletic tradition in some sports and a mediocre football legacy. Our problem with IU is really their fans, but not even all of them, or most of them. It is the small minority of Hoosier faithful that act like Ball State is so far beneath them that it’s almost an insult that they have to share the same field. Quite frankly, neither Indiana nor BSU have earned the right to look down on anyone, and the last I checked, BSU was 1-0 against the Hoosiers since 2008. At any rate, it’s IU HateWeek and if you’ll excuse me, I need to put some water in a dish for Bucknasty’s mother.

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Know an ’11 Opponent: Indiana

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 present the Know an ’11 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting here 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 an ’11 Opponent!

DISCLAIMER: Sitting down to write this post was exceptionally challenging for me for a whole host of reasons. There seems to be an internal battle waging between rational evaluation and totally ridiculous fan fueled hatred of your in-state rival. For those that don’t know me personally, I grew up in southern Indiana where the love of IU is not only common, it’s expected. Worse yet, if you are a fan of a rival school you are told in no uncertain terms that your existence is quite unneeded. Before I even knew there was a Ball State, I was (and honestly still am) a huge University of Kentucky fan. That didn’t sit well with the locals, obviously. So my connections with IU faithful haven’t been all that positive. FURTHER DISCLAIMER: To beat some haters to the punch…

  • I was accepted to IU. The one in Bloomington, not one of the branch campuses and chose BSU instead. It was neither my back up plan nor the only school that would have me.
  • If your insult is going to be something along the lines of “second rate teachers college” or “testicle tech” save your keystrokes. Come correct and come original or stay home.
  • I know many IU fans and alums. I even like a couple of them.

Having said all that, let’s see how this will go, shall we?

Indiana Hoosiers

To be honest, I’m not even sure where to start with Indiana. In some respects, much like Ball State, what you thought you knew and what you’ve come to expect from them could very easily be 180 degrees from what you’ll see on the field in the fall. The Hoosiers have a new coach, a new system, a new attitude, and a seemingly new approach to football in general. And that’s a good thing for them since I’m not even sure “failure” is an adequate term to describe their last three seasons. After Bill Lynch (yes… that Bill Lynch) was named the interim and subsequent permanent head coach after the death of Terry Hoeppner, the momentum and resurgence of IU football just seemed to sort of lose track. It’s easy to do, after all, when you’re a program that hasn’t known success on a high level ever and each week in conference play results in another curbstomping at the hands of the Michigans/Iowas/Wisconsins of the world. Having said that, I don’t at all feel sorry for IU fans. In fact, I would argue that though not in the MAC and not even a yearly opponent, IU is my most disliked opponent for a whole host of reasons, but the most notable (for me, at least) being such a smug and totally irrational belief that they are light years ahead of BSU athletically and academically.

Remember back in 2008 when IU and Ball State played a little contest down in Bloomington? The barbs from that one still sting, despite how incorrect they were, which we’ll get to next week.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Who leaves a job as the offensive coordinator for the presumptive favorite for the national championship to throw on an IU visor and go to work? Apparently, Kevin Wilson, much to my and pretty much everyone else’s surprise. The jump from coordinator to head coach at a lower profile athletic program isn’t the sticking point, as most jumps up in title are a bit of a step down in prestige. To me, this seems less “step down” and more “base jump without a parachute”. It’s sort of like Joe Biden resigning as VP to run for schoolboard somewhere. Some folks are itching to be a head coach, be the guy in charge, be the one responsible for making the decisions. I get it. I agree with it most times. But this is IU. For all intents and purposes, IU football is a BCS bottom-feeder that could potentially derail job progression for Wilson. Season after season of bad to mediocre results is really the expectation here, right? For Hoosier football to be anything other than 3rd-tier on campus (behind basketball and basketball recruiting) may be impossible and that doesn’t scream out to athletic directors across the country what a hot commodity you are. It’s Wilson’s first head coaching gig ever, so there’s no record to speak of or evaluate. IU fans will point to the remarkable success at Oklahoma, and I would retort with IU and OU have very different talent on the roster. Comparing one to the other at this point is like comparing Vince Lombardi to Stan Parrish. (i.e. one is really awesome and one really isn’t) Yes, I’m aware of the recruiting coup that Wilson managed this year to land Gunner Kiel and if he can recruit 4-star prospects that aren’t in his backyard to Bloomington, perhaps my comments above will prove incorrect.

Players and Stats of Note
A cursory look at the statistical ins and outs of last year shows that the Hurryin’ Hoosiers have lost their leading passer, leading rusher, leading tackler, and interceptions leader. There’s been a double secret QB competition that meant no one really knew who the front-runner for QB1 was. Both Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker were battling it out to be QB2 last year behind Ben Chappell and it looks like that competition has bled over to this season as well. Offensively, they do return their leading receiver in Demarlo Belcher who at 6’5″ and 215lbs provides one hell of a target assuming either of their QBs can get it to him. Defensively, DT Darius Johnson and LB Leon Beckham combined for 7.5 sacks last year and do make for an intimidating front for the defense.

If IU Football Was a Musician…
This was the easiest one of our opponent-musician mash-ups. You have a program that has been historically bad and is essentially the laughing-stock of their peers. You have a fanbase that when they do show up they lose all sense of reality and believe the Hoosiers are actually decent and have a chance to be awesome. Congratulations, IU… you’re Creed.

*shoots self in face for ever putting Creed on OTP*

How Worried Are We?

I’m not as dismissive of the Hoosiers as I would be if Bill Lynch were calling the shots. You have a BCS level opponent, an offensive mind at least partially responsible for the successes of Oklahoma in recent memory, and a strong defensive front that gets to go against an equally new offense. Neutral field, large crowd, first game in the Lembo era, etc. all lead me to at least have a little bit of worry, but nothing out of the realm of possible. Nice Code Orange, but leaning more toward Code Yellow than Code Red.

The Tacks-O-Brass
Game week for this one is one short week away, so I won’t get into heavy predictions, inflammatory comments, or wild accusations yet. Gotta pace ourselves, you know. The only thing worth noting about Indiana is this…

42-20 still feels good. Really good. Really really good. Like… REALLY GOOD.

Enemy Recon
For IU chatter, news and note, our recommendations for your clicks would be The Crimson Quarry. John (its founder) and his team of folks there do a good job with IU coverage and rational evaluation of the Hoosiers. Definitely worth a read as the game draws near.

Stan Parrish Makes Cameo on Tom Brady Slurpfest

I am admittedly not the world’s biggest NFL fan. Yes, I keep up with the Colts and Bears as the two most local NFL teams to my Indiana roots, but for the most part, I can take or leave the copious amounts of inflated salaries and inflated egos of the boys who play on Sunday. So unlike most NFL die hards, I was not in fact glued to my television tonight for the ballwashing of Tom Brady that ESPN broadcasted as part of their Year of the QB (whatever the hell that is) and instead went about my nightly routine of the gym, dinner, and other assorted offseason adult type time fillers.

When I finally plopped down on the sofa to catch up on some DVR’d awesomeness, ESPN was on and this was the image that greeted me when the TV finally powered on:

Don’t adjust your monitors. All up in your face is a blast from the Ball State not too distant past as one Stan Parrish got himself some screen time as they were apparently recapping Brady’s Michigan years.

Suffice to say, this didn’t leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, and instead sort of made the frustration and unhappiness about the last couple years that I thought was long since buried bubble up to the surface. Say what you will about Stan as a head coach at BSU, as a Coordinator or position coach throughout his career it is hard to argue or question his ability or results. It was a little perspective I guess since his ability and results as a head coach demonstrated with his time at BSU are also unable to be argued or questioned. The fact that those two arguments have very different outcomes is still puzzling. Parrish has become a bit of a hermit since leaving the program, with no press, no job, and nothing really Stan related trickling out into the public domain. Something tells me Stan was watching tonight, though, whether he’s an NFL fan or not.

Hoke to Michigan Should Stop the Fan Wars

When  Brady Hoke left his alma mater before the 2008 GMAC Bowl a chain of events started that no one could have foreseen. In the last two years, BSU football has certainly struggled on the field, there’s been several incidents off it, the press and fans have painted the administration as uncaring, incompetent, and non-committal all because Hoke took the opportunity to rebuild the San Diego State Aztecs and cement his resume for the next time the University of Michigan, his dream job, came open. With the announcement yesterday that Hoke has taken the reigns at the Big House, perhaps this can bring the last two years to a close.

The complaining/bitching/pissing/moaning about Hoke’s leaving, Stan’s staying, President Gora’s commitment, Tom Collins’ ability, the funding of the program, etc. can hopefully be put to bed because this decision to hire Hoke for the Wolverines make the events that led to the last two years an inevitability, whether they happened in 2008 or 2011.

  • It’s not all Gora & Collins
    We’re certainly not Gora/Collins apologists on this blog. There are significant things that one could point to as a failure of leadership and a lack of direction in the area of intercollegiate athletics. But as the old adage goes, no matter how thin you slice a piece of cheese, there is always two sides. Unfortunately for Gora and Collins, and fortunately for the fans who want to either cause chaos, live in dramatics, or scream and yell, the side that supports their point of view has quite the megaphone from their bully pulpit at the Kansas City Star and Fox Sports. Jason Whitlock, for all his passion and fervor for BSU athletics, plays a dangerous game with his columns. His goal of holding people accountable through his printed word has tremendous reach. Prospective coaches, prospective athletes, fans, etc. all see his ranting and raving and either dismiss the University as a small-minded program or dismiss his columns as biased one-sided rhetoric. Neither a good option and neither ultimately resulting in lasting and positive change. Being a change agent is all about making things happen and finding actual solutions instead of just pointing out the problem. WebMD can tell you what’s wrong, but I’m going to an actual doctor for treatment.
  • Hoke is not a Saint
    Fans act as if Hoke walked on water and shat frozen yogurt. That simply isn’t the case. I’ll stick to the onfield things because ultimately, I don’t want to ruin his reputation, but this was a coach with basically one great year and one pretty good year. Two Bowls for BSU is fantastic, but let’s not forget his sub-.500 overall record… and that’s with a 12-1 record figured in. As much as I appreciate and respect what Hoke did for the Cardinals, I feel it was far more equal of a deal than a coach out of the goodness of his heart coaching his alma mater because he loves them so much. BSU hired an unproven head coach with no coordinator experience and who struggled his first two years to win games and win the fans. It wasn’t until a perfect storm of a senior dominated team and a weak schedule led to the perfect storm of12-0 that fans were ready to fire the President and AD to retain him.
  • Ultimately Brady Was Looking to Leave
    Perhaps there was nothing the University could have done to keep Hoke in 2008. Perhaps he was gone regardless. Every one of us who supports the Cardinals likes to think of BSU as a great destination for a head coach and a proud football program. But facts are facts, and it isn’t… yet. Could it be? Of course. But there was virtually nothing that BSU offered Brady Hoke that San Diego State didn’t trump. Nice weather, great stadium, Mountain West Conference, powerful alumni, a vested fanbase, and most importantly, significantly more money. And those are just the tangibles. They speak not to his second career head coaching job on a larger stage, in a better conference, with the chance to rebuild them as well. Which he did. To further give him interview talking points when he interviewed for a certain Big 10 head coaching opportunity in Ann Arbor. Which he did. To make himself The Choice when Michigan needed someone to come in and restore their luster. Which he did. Whether he was in Muncie, San Diego, or Minnesota, when this job gets offered, Hoke takes it. Period. End of story. And he should have.

The bottom line is if BSU had ponied up the money to keep Hoke, which they couldn’t have afforded and potentially wouldn’t have made him stay anyway, come 2011 when Michigan came calling he still would have been gone and that’s the piece that most fans won’t realize. Look on the bright side, thanks to Brady bolting for the Aztecs, we got the Parrish years and the post-Brady chaos out of the way earlier than we would have now. At least that’s a small victory, right?

This piece probably seems anti-Brady, but it isn’t. I worry, though, that Michigan isn’t in fact Notre Dame as Brian Cook of MGoBlog likes to point out, but instead is inching closer to BSU in 2008. In a panicked desperate move, the administration at BSU freaked out and hired an in house coordinator to quiet the fans and hopefully maintain the momentum that was building. Michigan did much the same, only the “in house” became “Michigan experience” and the “maintain momentum” became “rebuild the program”. In BSU’s case, the failsafe went 6-18. Let’s hope for UM’s, Brady’s and everyone associated with the Wolverines’ sanity that the performance isn’t also duplicated, lest they become the target of one particular columnist with a national audience, a significantly close connection to the head coach, and a nicely sized ax that could always use some grinding.

Purdue Loses Smith for the Year

Keith Smith... done for the year

Remember that injury bug that struck the Cardinals last year? Perhaps it has found a new nesting place in West Lafayette, IN. Boilermaker WR Keith Smith, a fifth-year senior and the leading receiver on the Boilers so far in 2010 is expected to miss not only the Ball State game, but also the rest of his final year of eligibility. It’s a tough loss for the Boilers and as someone who followed a program absolutely decimated by injuries last year, this isn’t the best news to get on a random Tuesday, but does give a bit of hope to any of us worried about Purdue’s offensive firepower against the Cards this Saturday.

The story hasn’t received any sort of official word from Purdue, and it may not come until later in the week, if at all. Coaches, by nature, keep lineup changes or injury news as close to the vest as possible for very good reason. It prevents a team from knowing in advance that a key weapon isn’t in fact reason to worry. “Hey defense… remember that guy on film who caught all those passes? Yeah, we can go ahead and forget about him. Now, who wants some snacks?!”

Mmm… snacks.

Purdue Week… Bring it Boilers

Cardinals fans hope this big drum is the only thing Purdue beats on Saturday

I remember the last time the Cardinals suited up against a Big 10 foe from Indiana, and the Hoosier faithful were confident and cocksure that we had no business on their field. “That piddly teachers college” in Muncie was in over their heads, the football team was a joke, the coach was, in fact, satiable…. all those misconceptions crashing down around them as the Cardinals laid wood from pillar to post. Do I expect to lay a beating on the Boilers the likes of which we saw in Bloomington? Most likely not, as this team is far different than the 08 Cards, and Purdue is far better than the 08 Hoosiers. (In other obvious news, water is wet, the sun rises in the East, and apparently politicians are not 100% honest. I know, shocking.)

The curious thing is that even though our Cardinals clock in at 1-1, splitting our first two games this season, both against FCS competition, optimism is still at impressive heights. Maybe that has to do with the emergence on Saturday of Keith Wenning, perhaps the next great QB to tear through the MAC. Perhaps it’s just an undying love for Ball State that keeps our fanbase optimistic about our chances against the Boilermakers.

From Ball State’s Release:

  • Ball State and Purdue have met seven times and the Boilermakers have won each meeting
  • The last time the teams met was 2006 and Purdue defeated the Cardinals 38-28
  • All seven games have been played at Purdue
  • Purdue is 1-1 after tallying a 31-21 win at home over Western Illinois Saturday
  • The Boilermakers opened the season with a 23-12 loss at Notre Dame.
  • The Coach: Danny Hope (Eastern Kentucky ‘81) is in his second year as Purdue’s head coach and owns a 6-8 mark
  • He has posted a 41-30 career head coaching record, including a stint at Eastern Kentucky from 2003-07.
  • Purdue is averaging 164.5 rushing yards and 197.5 passing yards per contest
  • Robert Mavre has completed 54-of-76 passes for 391 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions
  • Dan Dierking is averaging 79.0 yards per game rushing.

Well, at least there’s a bit of recent history there since we’ve strapped up against the Boilers in 2006. Truthfully, this 2010 edition of the Cardinals is eerily similar to that 2006 version, but with one key exception. Despite the youth, the inexperience, and the lack of big wins, this program does in fact have a significant amount of talent. Take a look at the current two-deep for BSU:

First the offense…

And you can’t have offense without the defense…

Talent? We got it. Now, is it a talent that stretches the depth chart and can overcome things like injury, fatigue, etc. when playing on the road? Doubtful. But the 1st teams for each are considerably closer in ability than Purdue fans would like to believe or may even realize. Is it enough to overcome and win our 2nd contest against a BCS automatic qualifying conference in program history? We’ll find out on Saturday, 12pm, in West Lafayette.

Edge’s Week 1 Ruminations

Les Miles was far from impressive for Edge in Week 1

Les Miles likes walking on the tightrope. LSU’s second half attitude nearly cost them a loss and might have sealed his fate of unemployment for 2011.

Florida looked so ugly, I fought off the urge to watch a local high school game. On public access. Commentated by high school kids.

Notre Dame came out with a win in Brian Kelly’s first game. But 23-12 over Purdue leaves a bit to be desired when some very difficult opponents are lurking on that schedule.

DickRod avoided the hot seat with an impressive win over Connecticut. Tate Forcier in on the bench wasn’t surprising given his replacement made some huge waves for the future of Michigan.

Mississippi. Good Ole Miss. Moving on…

Brady Hoke is absolutely satisfied with a win over Nicholls State. 47-0 means all the homeless in San Diego can feel safe for a week.

Oregon State was one drive from handling a BCS-buster, but one bad snap sealed them to a loss against TCU. Too bad. I was hoping to see that bowl-buster drama end early.

East Carolina’s hail mary will probably be one of the top ten highlights this year. What an amazing game against Tulsa. Kudos to both sides for a great game.

Will Western Kentucky win a game this year? My sources say no.

Ok, seriously, Ole Miss. LOL. I mean, what the fuck?

Hello, Kansas. You’ve just been Turner Gill’d. You’re not alone, he did it to us in 2008. Too bad he did it for his own team this time though.

Navy’s case of fumblitis better get resolved quickly. There’s no excuse for three red zone attempts and two end in turnovers.

That Oklahoma game was a bit odd. Makes me rethink my pick of OU being a national contender this year.

Game of the week: Boise St. vs. Virginia Tech. It was everything it was hyped to be, and the Broncos prove they deserve that hype.

MAC stat of the week: 6-0 against FCS opponents. 0-7 against FBS opponents. Boo.

Finally, once again, congrats to Ball State for the week one win. Let’s keep it going against Liberty on Saturday.

Lynch Continues to Entertain

Former Cardinals coach Bill Lynch, now the current head coach at Indiana, is always good for a chuckle. Last year, Lynch brought the el-oh-el’s when he made sure the Big 10 referees officiating the IU-Michigan game as well as his chewing gum knew just how displeased he was with their decision to award an interception to the Wolverines. And now, something comes along that makes that piece of video the go-to Lynch clip no longer. Thanks to Iowa blog BlackHeartGoldPants, we have found our Lynchian unicorn… and it is good. Behold….

Take a moment. Let that sink in. Watch it again if you must.

The sheer amazingness of this video makes me unsure of where to even start. There is the music, reminiscent of a techno club for Swedes, with a nice kicking bassline mixed with yodels. Clearly, yodeling has what’s been missing from the urban dance scene, and makes the ecstasy go down so much smoother. From the first dulcet tones of awesomeness, you knew it was going to be good. But the Hoosierriffic fodder this video provides is beyond my wildest dreams. For example…

1.) The Student Acting!
I’m not sure where IU’s theater program ranks nationally, but I have to believe that with acting like this it has to be in the top.
Director: “Act surprised, IU student!”
Student: “What’s my motivation?”
Director: “Pretend IU actually had a winning record in football this season and anyone outside of the 8,000 people who buy tickets here actually give a shit about us!!”
Director: “Perfect!!”

2.) The Faculty Acting!
Ever been on a college campus? How many times have you seen a faculty member sitting nonchalantly by a fountain, reading a book, with a sportcoat from 1987 on? Exactly. Apparently that happens enough at IU to use it to sell Tshirts and coffee mugs. I do appreciate the acting chops of Joe Q. Faculty, however. Something tells me he may be a hired professional with expression and feeling like this:

3.) The Entire Flawed Premise
First of all, let’s take a look at the pitch man for selling their Indiana University wares to the general public…

When Bill Lynch is the person on campus that you decide would be the best person to peddle your gear that raises some significant questions. First and foremost on that list of queries is “What in the blue fuck were you thinking?!!?” Indiana is a basketball school, not a football school. Have Tom Crean do it. Have one of his assistants do it. Hell, they made a commercial about the old woman that swept the floor for Christ’s sake! Congratulations Bill, you’re following an immigrant janitor. Life’s really looking up for you.

Saying nothing of the oversized penis pump in his kung fu grip, his look here is indeed epic. Looking off into the distance, contemplating life, and just being Lynch. Is he stalking his next Tshirt victim? Is he wondering what created the cosmos? Is he wondering how his son ever managed to play basketball at Ball State? YOU JUST DON’T KNOW!

The designers also ignored a very key facet of God given truth in this ad. Lynch begins his tshirt toss by hitting a student dead in the chest. He then proceeds to hit a sitting faculty member, with amazing accuracy, and with so much force that he falls back into the fountain. Chuckles for all, and we get a wink from The Lynch that I know has melted more than a few hearts and dozens of inhibitions over the years…

Of course, what is far more realistic is as these tshirts are attempting to make it to their intended target, all light and fluttery-like, a PennState/Michigan/Iowa/Northwestern/BloomingtonNorthHighSchool student would jump in front, grab the shirt, and then sprint the opposite way, since that’s usually what happens when IU attempts to throw anything. But kudos to you, Indiana, you not only found a great use for Kellen Lewis’ bong after reformatting it as a Tshirt cannon, but you have provided me with a new found perspective on athletics marketing. No need for the flashy glitz and glamor… just Bill Lynch.

Know a ’10 Opponent: Iowa

In an effort to educate, preview, and most importantly, make fun of, the upcoming teams which dare play the Cardinals, OTP is proud to present the Know a ’10 Opponent series. Like we always caution, previewing and attempting to quantify the unquantifiable, especially two months away from the season is basically begging for failure, but we’ll fling some poo and see what sticks, shall we? I mean, after all, we predicted like 10 wins for BSU last season and we totally nailed that one, didn’t we? I can’t find the results, so let’s just go with that. So sit back, boys and girls, and know your ’10 opponents.

Iowa Hawkeyes
Remember the last Know a ’10 Opponent we published? How we talked about the potential upset of a Big 10 foe, and needing just a little bit of help from Purdue for that second win over a BCS conference school to become a reality? Remember how we compared Purdue to Indiana? How we said that while the talent gap between the MAC and Big 10 is sizeable, it wasn’t insurmountable? Yeah… sort of different rules apply to this one. Yes, Iowa is in the Big 10 as Purdue, and yes, they have 11 men on the field at any given time. But the similarities between Iowa and Purdue pretty much end there.

Ball State will venture into Kinnick Stadium on September 25 and be the presumptive heavy underdog. It is the 4th game for both teams, with Iowa playing host to Eastern Illinois and Iowa State as well as a road contest at Arizona the week preceding the BSU game. Iowa will most likely be in the Top 10 by this game, and most everyone who isn’t associated with the BSU program will give the Cardinals about the same shot at success as I have of bedding Erin Andrews. And Hannah Storm. On a primetime Sportscenter special moderated by Scott VanPelt. (Note: Read: Not good odds at all. -Ed.)

Perhaps history will tell us something about this Ball State-Iowa matchup. Granted, most know the only BCS conference school the Cardinals have beaten is Indiana, but there’s bound to be something to recall historically about these two titans of the gridiron that makes the expectations of this contest manageable. What’s that? They’ve played before? Awesome! How’d that turn out? A 56-0 drubbing in 2005? Stellar. Fuck you, history.

While it’s sort of a tradition to poke fun at the school or the area, Iowa is a great school in a great conference. And making fun of the locale would sort of be self-deprecation. Anyone who has been to Iowa and north central Indiana knows you can pretty much switch the two and no one would be the wiser. Corn, chain restaurants, and that typical midwestern aura means I can’t even make fun of the city. Have you no decency, internet justice? Not only does our team stand a snowball’s chance in hell, I can’t even mock the most basic things about Iowa? This sucks.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Frankly, Iowa has had a good run in recent history. 4 double-digit win seasons in the last decade, along with only 2 losing seasons and 1 .500 season. They’ve finished four of the last ten years ranked in the Top 10 of the final AP poll, and have been to 8 bowl games (2 BCSers) over that time frame, winning 5 of them.  They’ve also either won or shared the Big 10 title twice over that time frame and despite our hatred for the Big Ten, that’s an accomplishment. Hell, more than we can say about conference titles.

Recently, Iowa is one of those programs, it seems, where they are good for one giant upset per year. Last year they defeated Penn State on the road. In 2008, it was Penn State at home. They seem to also be good for one inexplicable loss, last year to Northwestern and in ’08 to Illinois. Could Ball State take the place of some bottom of the barrel Big 10 team and turn the 70,000 fans at Kinnick into a tear-stained mess of upset?

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Everyone knows Iowa’s head coach Kirk Ferentz. Not because he’s an exceptional coach (which he is) or because he’s flashy and attention seeking (which he isn’t). No, most know Ferentz because everytime a marquee job opens, Ferentz is linked to it in some way, shape, or form. The “rumors”, “speculation”, and “interest” usually result in a contract extension and a pay bump, but through it all, he’s stayed at Iowa, becoming the Dean of Big 10 coaches with the longest tenure of any current head men (You know… save for JoePa, which we clearly missed with the original post. -Ed.).

Ferentz’ record at Iowa is 81-55, with a 49-39 Big 10 record. I think most Iowa fans will tell you that the consistent performance and success they have enjoyed recently is because of Ferentz, but part of me does wonder if Hawkeye faithful will eventually demand more than the occasional Big 10 title and the standard 8 to 9 wins. Perhaps this year?

Ferentz is also the highest paid coach in the Big 10, and the highest paid state employee in Iowa, with compensation of just a smidge over 3 million last year. That’s a lot of corn, son.

Players and Stats of Note
Iowa returns 6 starters on offense and 8 on defense, but it less about how many and more about whom. On offense, the Hawkeyes return QB Ricky Stanzi, RB Adam Robinson, WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and two from the offensive line. Stanzi is the straw that stirs the drink for the Hawkeyes, going for 2400 yards and 17TDs last season. Perhaps most importantly, he loves him some America…

Defensively is where the Hawkeyes are strongest, returning 8 from a dominant unit last season that gave up only 280 yards per game and never allowed more than 28 points. The defensive line for the Hawkeyes is daunting, returning all four starters that combined for 252 tackles and 27 sacks. That doesn’t bode well if the BSU offensive line can’t muster some significant improvement from last season.

How Worried Are We?

AHHHHH!!!!!! CODE ARGYLE!!!! This is serious business. Essentially, this is a game that 95% of BSU fans will tentatively pencil an L in, and we like to call those fans “realists”. The Threat Level for this game isn’t about how worried we are. Truthfully, we aren’t worried at all about a loss, as acceptance is the first step to peacefulness. What we are worried about is somehow being embarrassed. Do I think that’s a likely occurence? No. But the possibility is there, and it’s a real one.

So the threat level hits a record high so far this preview season, akin to walking into a honky-tonk in Central Kentucky, requesting the Pet Shop Boys, and then ordering a Long Island Iced Tea while wearing boat shoes and an ascot. The likelihood of getting beaten is high, you simply hope you don’t get put in a coma.

The Tacks-o-Brass
Bottom line, Cardinals fans is measured and realistic expectations. Even worst case scenario curb stompings won’t upset me all that much considering the talent on that side of the field. A 14-24 point loss I would consider “expected”, less than 14 and I’m actually somewhat happy, and if we win, I’m driving to Muncie and tearing down the goal posts. Let Stan Parrish try and stop me.

This is one of those games where (at least to me) “success” is defined as moments of good play, an injury-free day, and not getting our innards blasted all over the field. All three of those things happen and it’s a successful Saturday.

Enemy Recon
For your Iowa reading pleasure, check out BlackHeartGoldPants, easily one of the best collegiate blogs out there. Funny, on point, and actually knowledgeable about the sports they cover, it’s a seamless mix of knock your socks off stats, info, and insight as well as dick and fart jokes. That is a symphony of excellence. You can check them out here, as well as their Ball State preseason coverage here and here. Enjoy.

Know a ’10 Opponent: Purdue

In an effort to educate, preview, and most importantly, make fun of, the upcoming teams which dare play the Cardinals, OTP is proud to present the Know a ’10 Opponent series. Like we always caution, previewing and attempting to quantify the unquantifiable, especially two months away from the season is basically begging for failure, but we’ll fling some poo and see what sticks, shall we? I mean, after all, we predicted like 10 wins for BSU last season and we totally nailed that one, didn’t we? I can’t find the results, so let’s just go with that. So sit back, boys and girls, and know your ’10 opponents.

Purdue University Boilermakers
Let’s take a little trip, Cardinals fans, a trip down memory lane. It was 2008 and it was a lovely year. The Cards started out 3-0 after wins over Northeastern, Navy, and Akron. And then a mighty test loomed. A test that was a road date against a BCS conference team, a classification of team that Ball State had never defeated. But the winds of change were blowing, as well as a metric ton of hot air and bullshit from Bloomington. IU fans were borderline ridiculous the week leading up to the game so it was just desserts when we took their arrogance, disrespect, and hyperbole and collectively crammed it down their cramhole. 42-20. We haven’t forgotten.

This year, BSU will once again take its Cardinal show on the road as we invade Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN on September 18. Will this Ball State team be competitive? Can we hang with the Boilers? Will a miracle upset happen? Would it be an upset if it did? OPT’s thoughts: yes, yes, maybe, and a little. You’re welcome.

Talking to Boiler fans, or even BSU fans, and it seems as if Purdue is lauded as someone who has beaten our drum on more than a few occasions. And they have, to the tune of a 7-0 all-time record against BSU. The closest game was also the most recent, in 2006, with a margin of 10. Pointing to that game as a reason why we’ll be close is just as crazy as pointing to the 59-7 beatdown in 2004 as evidence that we’re due an assstomping. Neither gives any perspective whatsoever to this year’s matchup.

Ironically enough, there are a quite a few similarities between the Indiana game of 2008 and the Purdue game of 2010, besides the obvious conference affiliation. This is a Ball State team who has experienced the rowdiest of the rowdy road crowds last year at Auburn, the same way most of the team of 08 cut their teeth at Michigan and Nebraska. This is a Ball State team that is capable of great things just as they are capable of great mistakes. As we said with Indiana, if BSU shows up to play and Indiana makes mistakes then that was a game the Cardinals could win. The same can ultimately be said for this game. If both teams play to potential then it’s a likely Purdue win, as the talent gap from the MAC to the Big 10 is that severe. However, that’s the great thing about football… any given Saturday and anything can happen. Any fan from BSU expecting us to walk up and stomp a mudhole in some Boiler ass is fooling themselves, just as any Purdue fan who looks at last year’s 2-10 disaster as an indicator of the potential of the 2010 Cardinals and thinks this is anywhere close to the same team. In fact, Purdue should think that. Their fans, their students, their staff, their players, and really anyone associated with the football program. Yes… that’s it. There’s no reason to prepare or worry. Let’s go with that.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?
Purdue is a funny darn team, at least to me. In my head, I remember the Drew Brees and Curtis Painter years, the Kyle Orton years, the “Basketball on Grass” that people seemed to laude. But going back through the record books, it’s like Purdue was always just short of that next brass ring. Good team? Absolutely. Great team? Eh…. not so much. In the 2000s, Purdue has clocked in 6 winning seasons, 1 .500 season, and 3 losing seasons. Highest wins? 9 in 2003. Lowest? 4 in 2008.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Purdue head coach Danny Hope enters his second year as the engineer on the Boiler express. His head coaching background isn’t that extensive as he’s only been the Purdue coach for a season, with a 5-7 record. Before that, he was the head coach at FCS Eastern Kentucky, with a 35-22 record. Hope is a former EKU alum and has spent his entire career hopping around from assistant to assistant position. Of note… he also coached at Louisville twice! Which of course makes us hate him even more. Nothing about Hope says that he will be as successful as former coach Joe Tiller, the first proponent of the spread offense at Purdue, but Hope should be fine to continue the good but not excellent tradition of Boiler football.

Last season, Hope’s premier, the Boilers were a middle of the pack (58th) scoring offense and a bottom third (89th) team in scoring defense. Purdue also was an exceptionally balanced team statistically last year, which will create problems for defenses. The addition of Marve may slant things toward the pass a bit, but expect the Boilers to still be a team capable of smash mouth old school Big 10 ball.

Players and Stats of Note
Perhaps the most interesting character in the Purdue cast for 2010 is QB Robert Marve. The transfer from Miami will take his first snaps as a Boiler QB in the fall, and Marve is one of those players that is just as likely to torch a team into submission as he is to make some critical mistake in a clutch situation. Marve has had his fair share of problems, academically and otherwise, and after a messy transfer now finds himself with a relative fresh start. We can only hope some of those demons rear their ugly head the week of the BSU game.

Qs and As
Whenever possible, we like to ask our fellow blogrificans if they would like to shed some light on their program. Purdue blog Hammer and Rails was kind enough to do so…

OverThePylon: So give us the real deal… most Purdue fans see BSU as the 2-10 failure from last year, right? Have you all forgotten about the 12-2 season already? There was another Indiana school who overlooked the Cardinals and Ball State as some sort of little brother in the football world up until the moment we beat them at home. How worried are the Boilermaker fans that little old BSU is going to give the Boilers a run for the money?
HammerAndRails: I think a player like MiQuale Lewis worries us a bit. We got torched by a strong running Northern Illinois team last season. If anything, that might hurt Ball State’s chances. The Huskies embarrassed us at home and this team will be focused to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, our run defense has been something short of awful for several seasons. If he can dominate and control he clock it will help Ball State’s chances more than anything.

I certainly haven’t forgotten about the 12-2 season. While beating Indiana isn’t that great since they are everyone’s little brother, I was more impressed by recent performances at Nebraska and Michigan. You guys certainly scared the bejesus out of both teams, especially Michigan when you nearly ruined the dream Michigan-Ohio State game of 2006. I would certainly take more pride in either of those games than beating Indiana.

OTP: The newest face for Purdue is QB Robert Marve, the former Miami Hurricane who transferred last year. What are most Boiler fans’ expectations of Marve and the offense under his control? More of the same from years past or a significantly increased presence of the passing game? Are we looking at the next Drew Brees/Curtis Painter here?
HaR
:Marve brings us an interesting element in that he has a stronger arm than Joey Elliott and he is probably the most mobile quarterback since Drew Brees. Since my wife is a Hurricane alum I saw his entire season at Miami and I was unimpressed at the time. He allegedly has settled down a bit and matured off the field since leaving Coral Gables. That’s a good thing because it was a major issue at The U. I saw him play once in person when we flew down for a game against Virginia Tech and he was good, but not great in that game. Granted, that was nearly two years ago, but it was one of his final on the field performances.

I think honestly you’ll see more balance between the run and the pass than before. Ralph Bolden rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season and Al-Terek McBurse is a player that can break out in the running game. Coach Hope seems to want more balance based on last season. Players like Justin Siller and Marve possibly taking snaps at quarterback also make them good runners.

OTP: RB Ralph Bolden started the year on fire, with 357 yards and 4 TDs in his first 2 games. In his final 9 he managed 578 yards and only 5 TDs. That seems a bit streaky to me. What gives? Will he be the straw that stirs the Purdue drink this fall or will it be the Robert Marve show?
HaR: There are major questions about Bolden playing at all because he tore his ACL in spring practice. It was the second time he has torn that ACL in his career, and he didn’t have surgery until May 4th. They have not officially ruled him out for the year, but I would be shocked if he was ready to play little more than four months after surgery. I suppose it is possible though.

Likely Ball State will see a couple of different looks. Al-Terek McBurse was the star of last year’s recruiting class. He was a four-star out of Florida and he got a few carries in the backfield with no significant yardage. He showed what is capable of by taking the second half kickoff back for a touchdown against Indiana. He’ll probably get most of the carries. Keith Carlos shifted from wide receiver to running back when Bolden went down, which was his JuCo position. Dan Dierking, a senior now, will likely get some carries. The wild card is Siller. After missing last season due to an academic suspension, this former quarterback has returned. He torched Michigan in 2008 with his running ability and we currently have him as a wide receiver. He started 2008 as a running back before moving back to quarterback when Elliott and Curtis Painter got hurt. That means we might see him in the Wildcat for a few plays.

OTP: WR Keith Smith strikes me as a big play receiver who is capable of taking over games. We unfortunately had that happen to us last year with BG’s Freddie Barnes. Tell our readers a bit about his style. Streaky speed guy on the outside? Possession guy across the middle? What’s he best at?
HaR: Smith is mostly a possession guy in the slot. He is the biggest slot receiver we have ever had though. I think he is a lot like Dustin Keller, our first round tight end in 2008. Keller was a matchup nightmare that could not be tackled one on one (and indeed had a highlight reel play in the 2006 game with Ball State). Keith is basically a big, strong guy with good hands that runs great routes. We want to get him the ball in space as much as possible because he can break tackles for big plays. That’s not bad for a guy that was originally a quarterback when recruited, then he became a safety. He even flashed that QB prowess a bit last year by throwing a touchdown pass on a trick play at Oregon in the final two minutes. We missed the two-point conversion to tie, but it was a hell of a play.

And yes, that means there is the possibility of us having three former quarterbacks on the field at the same time with Marve, Siller, and Smith. I am dreaming of the fun we can have with that.

OTP: The Boilers come into the BSU game after the season opener against Notre Dame and a week 2 FCS opponent. Am I crazy for thinking the Boilers may be a bit prone to overlook a team that was 2-10 last season and long thought to be the lowest of the low in Indiana college football? Taking that into account, are fans happy with just a win or do they need a very big drubbing of the Cardinals to feel ok about the Boilers going forward?
HaR: I think it depends on how things break in the Notre Dame game. Western Illinois was awful at 1-10 last year, so anything less than a blowout would have us concerned. I think we can take an Irish team that doesn’t have a real identity yet. That should be a very good game and test to see how far we have come.

I do think most fans expect to beat Ball state. I am a little concerned because of the experience that Ball State has returning. That experience can help the Cards improve in a hurry. You also have a pair of 1-AA teams before us, so you should come in at a confident 2-0. From our two MAC games (you and Toledo the following week) I think we have reason to fear Ball State more.

How Worried Are We?

Most Card fans will tell you that the Purdue game would be the 2nd toughest challenge on the schedule this fall as it’s on the road, a BCS opponent, and an in-state rival with talent and ability at key skill positions. Is it a game that’s destined for a blowout? I don’t think so, but remember what I said earlier about any given Saturday? If BSU comes out and plays mistake-free football while creating a few Boiler gaffes, then we may have a very special Saturday. If the reverse becomes reality and BSU miscues and mistakes are the flavor of the day then it’s going to be a very long day in West Lafayette. Hence, Code Red for this particular game, akin to marrying a Swedish supermodel and then cheating on her with everyone that even remotely looks at you or your golf bag. The odds of that going well are about one in 100 million. Dollars. HEY-O!

The Tacks-o-Brass
This is one of those challenging games where the Cardinal colored glasses have the potential to make a comeback. I would love to sit here and proudly proclaim that this is a toss up game, that the Cards will be competitive, that it is our game to lose, but I simply cannot do that in good faith. This game ultimately comes down to the Boilers. Play to potential and it’s a W. Make mistakes and it could easily by an L. Come on mistakes!