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2012 Preview: The Faces of the Cardinals

Quarterback Keith Wenning has a great deal of pressure to come up big in 2012 but is there someone in the program with more?

In honor of Ball State alum David Letterman here are 10 plus people in the BSU football program who have the most at stake in 2012. Just to make it interesting, Coach Pete Lembo is not on this list. The guy has so much job security from last season and great PR moves that he is under no pressure in 2012. Even if the Cards go 3-9 in 2012 I do not see the fan base turning on him over one bad season. There are people who do need a big year and for the sake of pointless arguments here we go.

10. Scott Kovanda, Punter

I hate the moniker “Punter U” that has been placed on the program. It might be the biggest backhanded compliment next to being called a pretty plus-sized model. Is there pressure for Kovanda to live up to the tradition set by Reggie Hodges and Brad Maynard? In terms of a future in the NFL, Kovanda may be the Cardinal in the best position among fellow seniors. If an NFL team wants a punter how much name recognition does Ball State have? Can you imagine some NFL general manager saying in the seventh round, “We need a punter and this Ball State kid has to be good because he went to the holy grail of punting?” We need to get Doug Zaleski to interview Bill Polian to get to the bottom of this important story. Might win a Pulitzer.

9. Efeoghene Scott-Emuakpor and Trey Gardner, Wide Receivers

Who is this year’s Jahwan Edwards to make a big impact on offense as a true freshmen? No one better than Efeoghene Scott-Emuakpor. Don’t know if his name is tougher to spell or pronounce. The hype around Efe is he is 6’3” making him the big receiver the Cardinals desperately missed in 2012. Efe is also a great follow on Twitter.

As for Gardner he was redshirted in 2011 but at 6’4” he should boost the receiving corps as well. I met Gardner in the unfortunate fashion of him trying to dunk a basketball over me in the recreation center. He missed the dunk because of my defense… okay he jumped from too far out. The point is I know from firsthand experience that Gardner has a vertical jump that is terrifying. Hopefully he will use his vertical against other football teams this year and not on me. Such is liberation.

8. Brandon Newman and Jon Newsome, Defensive Line

Newman and Newsome (say that five times fast) transferred from Notre Dame and Ohio State after graduating to the benefit of what may be Ball State’s weakest position. Dropping down from those schools to Muncie is like the NCIS camera crew leaving for Hard Core Pawn on Tru TV. The two did not see much action at their former schools but should be big for the Cards D-line by default. If they can get to the quarterback it will take pressure of the young secondary. Do not forget about Nathan Ollie who had six sacks last year.

7. Kelly Page, Quarterback

But Luke, at the speed will Kelly throw the ball away in time.

Yes, Page is still there. I have never met Page but no one on campus has probably ever been gossiped about more. I want Page to end his senior year on a good note and he still might. If something happens to Wenning how awesome would it be if Page leads the Cardinals to a bowl game. The man fans ripped becomes a hero. I strongly doubt that will happen but it would be a great story. Might be a potential “Rudy” moment for Ball State football this year. Page could have taken the easy way out and transferred to a school closer to his Texas home. He survived Stan Parrish and has a chance to prove his critics wrong if Wenning goes down. I wish him the best.

6. David Feely, Strength and Condition Coach.

Has anyone had more positive press that Feely? Feely made an immediate contribution last season bulking up the Cardinals and it paid off in the opener against IU. Seeing Ball State push around a BCS team, (IU still counts) was the moment when we knew how much Feely meant to the team. If Ball State can continue to get bigger and stronger than a winning season is more than possible.

5. Dan Manick, Kitt O’Brien, Austin Holtz, and Cameron Lowery

The offensive line has been identified by experts as the strength of the team and these four seniors are why. This is Ball State’s most experienced offensive line since the 2008 season. The problem is most MAC teams have experienced offensive lines too so pressure will be on them to make their senior year extra special. Ball State has more juniors than seniors but while the rest of the team will be back in 2013 the offensive line will have to reboot.

4. Travis Freeman, Linebacker

Freeman is hands down the best player on defense and will have to take on the leadership role on that side of the ball. He will have to prove he can captain a defense and not just make tackles. In a defense dominated game, something Ball State is in about once a year, Freeman will have to be the man who saves the day. Sean Baker and Josh Howard are not there anymore to do so. We know he can take a punch, but taking a gauntlet of the MAC’s explosive offenses may be a different story. What are your orders Captain?

3. Willie Snead and JamillSmith, Wide Receivers

Jamill Smith is ready to get the 2012 season started.

In terms of playmakers, these are your guys. Both receivers might be too short to play on the women’s volleyball team, but their speed brings so much to the table. The way Keith Wenning was chucking the ball downfield to these two with success in the spring game made fans excited for season. Snead wants to show off what he can do after being injured most of 2011. Smith wants to make all the other teams eat it after no one in FBS offered him a scholarship coming out of high school. Plus he is a town star. I guarantee you Smith will take part in several trick plays this season as well. Much will depend on their performance in 2012.

2. Keith Wenning, Quarterback

If Snead and Smith hold up their end expect big things from Keith Wenning. He has the talent to light up the scoreboard and flirt with the passing records set by someone named Nate Davis. Expectations may be higher for Wenning than they are for Ball State as a whole. The 2012 season may be when we go from saying, “What an awesome last name,” to “What an awesome quarterback.” Problem is the MAC is loaded with great quarterbacks the way McGalliard Street is loaded with potholes. Wenning can prove he belongs with the elite and we can’t wait for him to do so. No pressure or anything.

1. Jay Bateman, Defensive Coordinator

No one in the football program has more stones than Jay Bateman. Check out this awesome tweet.

Tell us how you really feel Coach Bateman. I like the confidence and I like the fact he broke the streak of defensive coordinators lasting only one season even more. With that said there is pressure and that is not just from the bold predictions. The defense is full of question marks. Virtually everyone outside of Travis Freeman has some form of uncertainty. When a corner blows a coverage fans will not be criticizing the “student athlete,” but the coaching staff does not benefit from such protection. There is no middle ground for Bateman. If the defense defies predictions and stops people, Bateman will look amazing. If the defense gives up more points than the basketball team (it is possible) then it might be time to dial down the rhetoric. It sounds like Bateman’s confidence is similar to Rex Ryan at the New York Jets. Ryan has stones and is not afraid to say anything. When his defense was tearing teams a new one the New York media could not get enough of him. After missing the playoffs in 2011, he is now on the hot seat. Is it fair? No. But it is the life a coach. The revolving door known as defensive coordinator at Ball State University is no exception and I am sure Bateman understands that. I hope Bateman gets his multiple rings. If not, he will at least own one heck of a Twitter account.
Nathan Pace is a 2012 Ball State graduate contributing to OTP and is the new police reporter for the New Castle Courier-Times. If you live in the Big Blue River Valley known as Henry County (who doesn’t) and have a great story idea you can contact him at npace@thecouriertimes.com

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Preseason Predictions are Hard on Cardinals

Welcome to June, the most depressing month for sports in central Indiana. After the 500 and the Pacers playoff run the sports scene is in hangover mode. Now we enter the season with heat waves, overhyped movies, and the best shows on television are about pawn shops and storage units.

Thankfully there are people who understand the dire situation. They are the writers for college football preview magazines. June is the month where college football goes from the back burner to the anticipation of the new season. It is three months away, but the predictions can start now.

The “experts” are forecasting plenty of “Ls” headed to Muncie in 2012. The season calls for partly cloudy skies with a 100 percent chance of no one knows what they are talking about.

These preview magazines are a great way to gear up for a season, but few are a good buy for Cardinals fans. Most magazines go heavy on the BCS conferences and perform tiny summaries for schools like Ball State.

Lindy’s magazine even misspelled quarterback Keith Wenning calling him Henning.

If you want a magazine that is easy to digest I suggest Athlon, Sporting News, or USA Today. For me I want all the information I can get, especially on the MAC.

The most info on the MAC and other small schools is in Phil Steele’s College Football Preview. His magazine is typically twice as thick compared to the others and every inch is filled with text. Photos are kept to a minimum to make room for more info. The pages are not exactly attractive to look at but the information makes up for it.

Recently, a stat from Steele has been circulating about Ball State’s offensive line having the most career starts. Steele’s is the only magazine that would go into that sort of detail to produce that info.

Which leads us to what Phil Steele thinks of your Cardinals and it is not encouraging. The offensive line stat is about as positive as it gets.

He picked Ball State to finished dead last in the MAC West. So much for staying positive.

Steele’s not alone as all the magazines I have seen placed the Cardinals dead last or in the bottom half of the MAC West. Anytime I see Eastern Michigan ahead of Ball State it can ruin a day.

His main reason is the schedule as Steele labeled Ball State’s the 58th toughest in the nation. May not sound bad but that is the toughest of any MAC school as the favorites went cupcake (No. 121 Western Michigan, No. 122 Northern Illinois, and No. 123 Ohio). There are 124 teams in FBS so those three have an easy route while the Cardinals are taking on the gauntlet.

So far that’s nothing personal but then Steele comes out with his defense numbers. For the 2012 season he has Ball State’s defense ranked 122 out of 124. The only teams lower are Kansas and UAB. Even FCS schools that made the jump to FBS like UMass, UTSA, South Alabama, and Texas State were higher.

Phil Steele would advise to dress warmly at Ball State games because he predicts the defense is going to get burned.

Steele’s projections take into account the opponents a defense plays so it is not a straight up power ranking. He is projecting the Cardinals will surrender an average of over 34 points per game in 2012 given the level of competition.

Steele labeled the Cardinals defensive line and defensive backs as 12th out of the 13 teams in the MAC. The linebackers were slightly better at 10th. If those rankings hold true even some local high schools could score a touchdown or two on Ball State let alone Western Michigan.

Another shot to the Cardinals was how Steele valued the team’s recruiting class ranking it 12th in the MAC. Only ahead of Akron (1-11 last year) and behind UMass (5-6 in FCS).

Offensive predictions were brighter with the story being the running back corps ranked third in the conference. Running back Jahwan Edwards made Steele’s second team All-MAC. I am not even sure if he is going to be the starter next season.

Steele has the offensive line tied for second in the conference. Wenning was tied for fifth in MAC quarterbacks as I am sure Ball State fans will say he should be higher.

The most discouraging number remained in Steele’s Power Poll of all 124 FBS schools. Ball State was No. 103 but only two teams on its schedule were lower. Through this logic Steele has Ball State headed for a 2-10 season in 2012. Someone find grandpa his blood pressure medicine now.

Sure, these are not the things fans want to hear three months till the regular season but with all statistics there are flaws. Phil Steele is no different.

The biggest hole is Steele’s philosophy of teams that win multiple close games the year before come up short in those contests following season. Since Ball State won five games by a touchdown or less in 2011 its 6-6 record was an exaggeration.

Steele is big on patterns and his close win philosophy is a pattern, nothing more. This does not mean your Cardinals are a lock to follow the trend.

Steele wrote that Ball State will have a stronger team this year. Having a stronger team may not translate into more wins but it rarely results in a 6-6 team going 2-10 or 4-8 a year later.

Another note is that the MAC is one of the toughest conferences to predict. Steele may be the most accurate magazine but he had Ball State in the MAC basement last year too. Parody is the biggest trait in this conference where teams that make it to the championship game one year can have a losing season the next. Ball State fans have found that out the hard way.

What I am taking away from Steele’s preview are the key issues that will define the conversation about Ball State going into the season.

Can the Cardinals find enough winnable games in their schedule?

Is the defense as bad as some are making it out to be?  I previously demonstrated how last season’s negative statistics were fishy.

Was the 2012 recruiting class really at the bottom of the MAC?

Those are the big questions right now about this team.

Typically it is the job of sports writers and bloggers to be critical but Phil Steele and other preview magazines beat me to the punch with the 2012 season.

The good news is all this talk will not matter in three months. Now that is staying positive.

Cardinal Preview: Ohio

Ball_St helmetOhio_OLD11

Ball State vs. Ohio

Time: 12:00pm
Location: Scheumann Stadium
Television: Online stream via BallStateSports.com

Sports, by nature, is psychological. Confidence, attitude, swagger… you can call it whatever you want, but the simple fact is the mental attitude of a team often times has just as much to do with success on the playing field as skills or experience. It is the hope of Cardinals fans that last weekend’s win against EMU snowballs itself. Lord knows it would be nice to have a happy snowball sort of experience instead of the heaping helping of negativity, cynicism, and fault finding that has been the BSU fanbase over the last 7 games. (9 games if you count Buffalo and Tulsa from 2008!)

The Basics
Ohio University Bobcats
Location: Athens, Ohio
Record: 5-3 (3-1 MAC)
Last Week: L, 11-20 vs. Kent State

Ball State University Cardinals
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 1-7 (1-3 MAC)
Last Week: W, 29-27 @ Eastern Michigan

Offense
Ohio finds themselves 10th in the MAC in total offense, averaging a little over 315 yards per game. They are primarily a passing team, more than a bit worrisome considering the propensity of our defense to not play exceptionally well against that new fangled forward pass. Chris Garrett and Donte Harden are the two leading rushers for the Bobcats, but neither is over 70 yards per game. Tyler Tettleton and Theo Scott both played last week in Ohio’s loss to Kent State, but their offense was putrid. Gaining only 164 yards of total offense and -9 on the ground helped Kent hand Ohio their first conference loss.

For BSU, last week was a resurgence of sorts of offensive power unseen since last season. Granted, this edition of the Cardinals did it on the ground instead of through the air, as Quale Lewis and Cory Sykes combined for over 500 yards of rushing, an NCAA record. Tanner Justice, filling in for injured Kelly Page, only had 1 yard of passing, but he is 1-0 as a starter.
Advantage: Ball_St helmetAn effective offense all season long that sputtered last weekend versus an effective offense last weekend that has sputtered all season long. Like so many things in college football, it’s what have you done for me lately.

Defense
Ohio’s defense is 3rd in the MAC giving up roughly 343 yards per game. Compare that to BSU’s 10th in the conference standing with 390 yards per game allowed. Ohio has also faced impressive opponents this season like Tennessee and Connecticut. Ohio is 5th in the league in both rushing and passing, and paced in coverage by freshman Gerald Moore and senior Patrick Tafua who have combined for 5 picks this year. Junior linebacker Noah Keller has 7.5 TFL and 2 sacks, and will be an integral part of shutting down the BSU rushing attack. DL Dak Notestine also has 2 forced fumbles and 4 sacks. Ohio leads the conference in fumbles recovered and interceptions.

For the Cardinals, the defense that many expected to be the calling card of this team with its experienced returners has yet to materialize. Last season’s unit, operating under a sort of bend but don’t break principle, has broken on several occasions this season, including inexcusable breakdowns in pass coverage and tackling at extremely critical times. If the Cardinals can put together a complete sort of game, force turnovers, pressure the opposition, and make their tackles, then they have the potential to dominate.
Advantage: Ohio_OLD11On paper and for now, Ohio. But this BSU team is due for a dominant sort of showing.

Mascot
For Ohio University, their “mascot” is Rufus. So named because of a student vote and submission. I can think of many more applicable names.
rufus
Unconfirmed on whether or not this was taken from the Thriller video with the yellow jaundice eyes.

For Ball State, say hello to Charlie Cardinal… whose bad-assedness knows no bounds.
charlie cardinal
Advantage: Ball_St helmet

Intangibles
Ball State is trying their best to put together a… wait for it… WINNING STREAK! Recognize. Ohio is trying to gain their 6th victory this season… and reaching that mythical Bowl Eligible threshold. Perhaps the biggest intangible will be the atmosphere created at Scheumann Stadium. A good showing on Halloween for the BSU faithful may lead the charge to another Cardinal win. The turnover difference is shocking for Ohio (+10), and they also lead the conference in average kick returns… an area BSU has struggled with this season.

Overall
This is hardly a must win for either school, as no matter what the outcome, both schools seasons have already been easily defined. Ohio is still in Bowl contention, in the hunt for the MAC East, and every MAC game now that is won makes that sort of accomplishment far more reachable. No matter the outcome though, Ohio fans have to be pleased with the direction of the program. For BSU fans, it’s basically the polar opposite. No matter what happens in this particular contest or going forward, most fans wear their disappointment and anger on their sleeve about the 2009 campaign.

This is far from an unwinnable game for the Cardinals, but it would require perfection in the turnover department and an offensive attack that has been missing for most of 09. Not out of the question, and not surprising should it happen, but there has been nothing to suggest that that sort of effort should be expected. If the offense can play turnover free and keep the defense somewhat honest by displaying some semblance of balance, in addition to converting on third downs to keep our own defense fresh, that’s a start. Defensively, the Cardinals must keep pressure on the passing game, limit the cushion for the Ohio receivers, and actually make tackles. If all those things happen, then the Cardinals have a great shot at an upset. If not, then it could be a long day in Muncie. We’ll land in the happy medium.

Prediction
Ohio 31
Ball State 24

Eastern Michigan? Just What the Doctor Ordered

Ball_St helmetEastern_Michigan
Ball State vs. Eastern Michigan

Time: 1:00
Location: Ypsilanti, MI
Television: BSUSports.com All Access

doctorHi Coach! What seems to be the trouble. Need those little blue pills? Maybe a PSA?
stansmall I’m sure you’d like that. But no! It’s so painful!!! These losses!!!
doctor Let me check your chart. Hmmm… Wait. That’s not good. North Texas? New Hampshire? What the hell?!
stansmall We had injuries! We had a new system. I have a plan!!!
doctor Yeah? What’s that? Hope these other teams just get tired of scooping fumbles or catching interceptions and they drop dead from exhaustion? OH!!! Nailed it! They should call me McFunny!
stansmall Look Doc… can you help me or not? Or did you spend all that time primping your feathered hair as opposed to studying?
doctor Actually, Stan… I think I have just the thing. Take an Eastern Michigan and call me in the morning.

If only it were that easy, Derek. While Ball State fans and supporters will tell you that Saturday’s game is imperative to the future success of the program, a more convincing argument could be made that a victory on Saturday does far more for EMU, who has a coach that is unproven, with no track record, and a history of mediocrity reaching to the last decade. While Stan has certainly seen abysmal results as a head coach, the teams he was on have certainly done well, from Michigan to Tampa Bay, to the last few Ball State teams. Is he a has been? Debatable. But better to be a Parrish-esque has been than a Ron English-esque never was.

The cynics of the MAC or those that simply want to hurl insults and commentary without any sort of logic will point to this EMU-BSU contest as a prime reason why the MAC is a forgotten step-child of FBS football. Both are winless, I agree, but it’s important to remember that not all winless teams are created equal.

For Ball State they’ve battled the departure of key components on offense, a new defensive scheme, a nearly entirely new coaching staff, and a slew of injuries on offense including starting QB Kelly Page. The fanbase is in shambles, the student body trending towards apathetic, and the things that BSU faithful thought indisputable like a Parrish offense scoring points or Quale Lewis running roughshod over the defense suddenly is quite up in the air.

The same injury bug has bitten Eastern Michigan, as senior QB Andy Schmitt was taken down the 3rd game of this season with the dreaded ACL tear. Schmitt was a threat for the Eagles, and they now split duties between Alex Gillett and Kyle McMahon. For EMU they have faced impressive competition this season, traveling to Michigan and Northwestern, only losing to the Wildcats by 3. Since that close one, though, it hasn’t been pretty. The lowlight certainly has been their 56-8 drubbing at the hands of Central Michigan.

The interesting thing when it comes to schedules is the fact that the common opponents between these two played at Eastern Michigan while BSU faced both Army and Temple on the road. Each game’s outcome was closer for the Cardinals, as BSU lost to Temple 24-19 and Army 24-17 compared to EMU’s 27-14 Temple loss and their 24-12 loss to Army.

The stats favor Ball State as well, as EMU does nothing particularly well, and teams continue to run over, around, and essentially straight over top of this EMU defense to the tune of nearly 300 yards per game on the ground. Ironic when you consider Ron English was a defensive coordinator before this job, not ironic when you remember how bad his defenses were.

The key to this Saturday’s game? Rushing. Quale Lewis, Eric Williams, and Cory Sykes must be the saving grace for this Cardinals team to have any hope of winning. Let’s see what won’t be a factor:

  • The pressure packed television production crew and cameras!
  • The hundreds and hundreds of fans!
  • Any sort of Bowl aspirations, scouts, or invitations

It is truly a shame that for one of these teams, their season, their attitudes, and their atmosphere will be changed, perhaps only temporarily, but no one outside of the several thousand there and the hundreds watching at home will even be able to see it. Probably even fewer will notice on Sunday morning when the recap gets published across the country. I certainly hope that the lack of attention, support, or festivity will take anything away from a group of young men and a staff that has certainly endured enough already to earn a week off from the kerfuffle.

On the prediction front, Edge tosses up a 21-20 Ball State win, and I will forecast a 14-10 Ball State win. At this point, and with this team, it’s really just as effective to pull random numbers out of a hat considering no performance whatsoever, from the horribly ineffective to an explosive offense-gasm, would remotely surprise me at this point.

For your musical stylings this afternoon, let’s pick a little Bruce. Since Ypsilanti is a town full of losers and Ball State’s pulling out of here to win.

Cardinal Preview: Toledo

Ball_St helmetToledo

Ball State vs. Toledo

Last week we did things a bit different around these parts… no fancy previews, no haikus, just some bare bones predictin’. That didn’t yield a result any different than the first three games, so we’re back to square one… insulting the opponent and calling the mascot shittily done. Thankfully, this week we play Toledo, and both those things are easily accomplished. If we’re going to lose, which I don’t think we will but everyone not wearing cardinal and white think we will, then by God, I am going to at least have fun doing it.

The Basics
Ball State University
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 0-4 (0-0 MAC)
Last Week: L 30-54 @ Auburn

University of Toledo
Location: Toledo, OH
Record: 2-2 (0-0 MAC)
Last Week: W 41-31 @ Florida International

Offense
Toledo is #1 in the conference for total offense and that worries me… not gonna lie. They ring up about 320 yards per game through the air and roughly 31 points per game (second to CMU). To call this team vastly improved is an understatement. UT runs a bit of a spread attack that certainly has no problem putting points up and throwing the ball all over the field. They have already knocked off one BCS league opponent in Colorado and offensively looked damn good in the process. Their worst game of the season was against Ohio State, where they only mustered 210 yards of offense. Thankfully for the Rockets, Ball State is no OSU.

For Ball State, the offense has been a bit of a work in progress this season. The talent? Certainly there. The experience and confidence needed to succeed? Not so much, but that’s changing on a weekly basis. From the season opener against North Texas to last weekend’s showdown with Auburn, this team looked dramatically different. Quale Lewis is finally getting some breathing room and Kelly Page is not getting smacked around like he talked back to Chris Brown. All great things, and all the responsibility of the offensive line. Still not perfect, but getting dramatically better.
Advantage
: Ball_St helmetThis advantage is more about who they’re facing. Facing a Toledo defensive unit will make the Cardinals offense look markedly improved. Additionally, Toledo facing a challenging BSU defense will be the 2nd best defense they’ve faced all season… the first time, against OSU, they were shut down and shut out.

Defense
To call Toledo’s defense “dog shit” would be an insult to dog shit. The Rockets are giving up nearly 40 points per game and 470 yards per game. Granted, the Rockets did play Ohio State, and the Buckeyes gashed them for 522, but their other opponents were far from amazing teams. When you couple that performance with Colorado, FIU, and Purdue and still give up nearly 500 yards per game… that’s bad. But good for BSU!

Ball State’s defense, a unit that most thought would be the saving grace this season and drive the Cardinals win train has been a bit disappointing. Giving up 414 yards and 30 points per game against the competition they have faced has been far from dominant. Boding well for the Cardinals, though, is the fact that they are significantly better against the pass than the rush, statistically speaking.
Advantage
: ToledoToledo… sort of like the offensive category above, because of the unit they’re facing. In a vacuum, BSU’s defense is the better unit, but playing against the respective offensive is the difference in evaluation.

Coaching
Tim Beckman, Toledo’s new coach, spent a considerable amount of time at BG, so is familiar with BSU and the MAC in general. He has BCS experience, serving at both Oklahoma State and Ohio State, and is looking like a coach to be reckoned with in the very near future should he stay around long enough to earn it.

Coach Parrish has been some folks’ favorite punching bag this season, going 0-4 and having not won a game since Reagan. I mean, that has to change eventually. Why not now? And let us not forget this is the same coach who basically pulled his slacks down and shat all over MAC defenses for the last several seasons in Muncie.
Advantage: Push. Stan has a Super Bowl ring and a National Championship ring. Beckman has a lot of hype and a BCS win over a utterly craptastic Colorado team.

Intangibles
For Ball State, the crowd will be rocking, the Scheu will be packed, and this is a team which has been beaten senseless about its 0-4 record for the past week. Despite all that, this team is remarkably positive, ready, and focused to get their MAC season rolling.
Advantage: Ball_St helmet

Mascot
Toledo:
rockytherocket
This… is Rocky the Rocket. I guess technically it’s a mascot. I need to get past my prejudice and realize that shitty mascots are mascots all the same.

Ball State:
charlie cardinal
Raise your hand if you’re awesome. And far far better than your shattily outfitted opponent.

Advantage: Ball_St helmetColor me biased all you want… that Rocket above with his high water pants and giant visor neither intimidate nor frighten me. If that’s what raises spirits in Toledo, then this recession has crept a little too close to home.

Overall
The naysayers and the Toledo fans will have you believe that this one isn’t going to be close. They’ll want to tell you that Ball State getting 5 points at home on Homecoming is like taking candy from a baby and their Rockets should be favored by significantly more. I think that’s foolish. You have a BSU team that has shown progression week to week, a coaching staff that seems to finally be willing to change gameplans to suit the needs of the players, and a positive attitude and atmosphere after a respectable showing at Auburn. This Ball State defense will give Toledo fits, and the offense will find its groove early and often, leading Ball State to its first victory of 2009.

Prediction:
Ball State – 35
Toledo – 24

Cardinal Preview: New Hampshire

Ball_St helmetNew_Hampshire

Ball State vs. New Hampshire

Location: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, IN
Time: 7:00pm
Television: Online streaming via BallStateSports.com

What a difference a week makes for Cardinal fans. 6 days ago, people were brimming with excitement, ready for the season, ready to stomp ass and take names. Then came the Mean Green and Cardinal Nation was fractured into a million little pieces. The fan spectrum ranges now from wildly unfounded optimism to equally wild and just as unfathomable pessimism, and virtually everything in between.

Do I fall in the camp of “Hell… we’re still going 11-1. Suck it Central!!!”. No. Do I fall in the “Honey, have you seen my pitchfork and angry mob clothes?”. Also, no. There’s a ton of room under that bell curve and that’s where most fans find themselves. On the edge of their proverbial seats, hoping last game was an anomaly in an otherwise successful season. We shall see on Saturday.

The Basics
Ball State University Cardinals
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 0-1 (0-0)
Last Week: L, 10-20, vs. North Texas

University of New Hampshire Wildcats
Location: Durham, NH
Record: 1-0
Last Week: W, 24-14, vs. St. Francis, PA

Offense
The Wildcats are coming off a solid offensive performance last week, in which they started strong but fizzled late. Gamesmanship from coach Sean McDonnell? An inability to play well for entire games? Who knows. The offense was paced last week by Sean Jellison, a RB who also is capable of catching passes out of the backfield and creating highlights in space. Sort of Reggie Bush-ish in his ability to make defenders miss. However, that game last week wasn’t against D1 athletes. It is my hope that Jellison and company are in for a rude awakening against a defense hungry to prove they do not, in fact, suck ass.

For Ball State, the offense got a little off kilter last week. Sort of like choosing to drive this solar powered hybrid which has great potential rather than the F-150 in your garage that starts like a dream. Hence, Quale Lewis was not the straw that stirred the drink last week. Quale wasn’t even the paper umbrella stuffed in it for looks. This week, it’s time for Quale to get the carries he deserves (read: more than 15) and become the driving force behind this offense. No knock on Page, as the young man will get consistently better, but having a featured back opens up the passing game and creates single coverage and less pressure. All good things for a QB attempting to find their legs.
Advantage: Ball_St helmetIf Quale is the offensive centerpiece, it’s BSU. If he isn’t, it’s a push. I think Stan learned his lesson and you’ll see Quale early, often, and dominant.

Defense
The defense for UNH last week held St. Francis to under 100 yards on the ground. But I’ve met Ball State. And St. Francis, you’re no Ball State. The defense for UNH is formidable and experienced, and if last year tells us anything it’s that this team is not the usual FCS sacrificial lamb that’s quite popular in major football stadiums this time of year. Last season the Wildcats ranked 30th in FCS against the pass and 17th against the rush, and this year they’re off to a bang up start at both. Of special note is Safety Hugo Suoza, who ran roughshod over St. Francis to the tune of a blocked field goal and a recovered fumble.

The Cardinal defense has taken an absolute beating over the last week for their performance against North Texas. The Mean Green did pretty much whatever they wanted whenever they wanted and however they wanted, regardless of the BSU defenders. Running, passing, it didn’t matter much. The Cards were gashed on the ground and taken advantage of through the air because of a large cushion by the BSU secondary. That absolutely has to stop. On the good side of things, Sean Baker picked off a pass in the end zone. Kudos.
Advantage: Push. Depends on which BSU defense shows up. If they play like they’re capable of playing, then they dominate. If they play like last week, they don’t. And I begin to seriously worry.

Coaching
New Hampshire’s Sean McDonnell is in his 11th year. His record is 71-49. Since taking over, he’s built New Hampshire into a consistent FCS powerhouse, and owns several victories over FBS schools. He’s an alum of the program, and has a 47-17 record in the last 5 years. Impressive to say the least.

Ball State’s Stan Parrish is heading for his 2nd game as head coach of the Cardinals, and it would be nice if the real Stan Parrish would stand up. Which Coach do we have? The one who led the offense at BSU to record breaking seasons and two Bowl trips? Or the one who hasn’t won a game as a head coach since October 18th, 1986.
Advantage: Push. What McDonnell has done at UNH is admirable. I also choose to focus on the OC years, where Stan shat all over MAC defenses.

Intangibles
For New Hampshire, they’re gunning for their next victim in a long string of FBS teams they’ve knocked off. Since 2004 UNH has played four FBS teams on the road – Rutgers, Northwestern, Marshall and Army – and beaten them all. Additionally, their conference in FCS has had their share of success this season as there have been three wins by Colonial Athletic Association teams against FBS teams last week – Villanova over Temple, William & Mary over Virginia and Richmond over Duke.

For the Cardinals, it is a chance at redemption in their last home game for nearly a month. The fans are worried, the game last week was a let down, and the balance of the season is on a precarious ledge in need of rescue. Now is the time.
Advantage:Ball_St helmet

Mascot
New Hampshire: Wild E. Cat
WildECat

Ball State: Charlie Cardinal
charlie cardinal

Advantage: Ball_St helmetDios Mio. Wild E. Cat? How about Shit E. Lee-Dunn. Or Awful E. Dressed. Newsflash… when your mascot apparently not only took his name, but also his look from Wile E Coyote, that’s a bad sign. Consider the Ball State offense the Acme rocket about to blow up. Now at Macy’s for Halloween – Pseudo-intimidating generic feline #5, gray with stubby fangs. Throw an oversized university t-shirt on him (or her… meeooow!), and you have an instant mascot for the budget-conscious and brain-numb higher education sports marketing department.

Overall
The key to this game stands at about 5’6” and weighs around 200lbs. He wears number 33 and is needed to destroy the Wildcats defense, their spirits, and their chances for a win. For that to happen, Stan Parrish needs to recognize the importance of ball control and crawling before you can high jump, and Quale is exactly what Dr. Alan prescribes for a team in need of a booster shot of confidence and success. Parrish’s wisdom and sense wins out, and Quale carries it early, often, and over this defense. Close for the first half, Ball State pulls away in the second.

Prediction:
Ball State 27
New Hampshire 10

Cardinal Preview: North Texas

Ball_St helmetvs. North_Texas

Ball State vs. North Texas

Location: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, IN
Game Time: 7:30pm
Television: ESPNU

It’s been a long spring and summer as we have all sat patiently and waited. And waited. And waited. Sure, there was recruiting. There was the Draft. There were spring games and fan jams and cookouts. All nice little appetizers to get us hungry for today. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here. Finally. Mercifully.

For the Cardinals, they look to build upon the successes of last season and come out with a statement game. A game which silences the critics, put the fans at ease, and puts the rest of the MAC on notice that the jibba jabba about a struggling offense is a little premature. For the Mean Green, they are looking for something positive to build on for 2009, since Lord knows 2008 brought nothing to be happy about. 1-11 is nothing to be proud of, admit to, or even acknowledge. For example, as far as I remember, Ball State didn’t even have a football team in 1998 or 1999. On the bright side, UNT fans, there’s nowhere to go but up. Well… I guess you could always end up 0-12.

Listening to the fans this week on both sides has been entertaining, but there seems to be a large measure of confidence building on the UNT side of the fence. For really no reason. The UNT offense is decent, but the BSU defense looks to be the strength of the team. As for the biggest question, the BSU offense, they are facing a unit in UNT’s defense that gave up 40+ 9 times last season. Kelly Page and MiQuale Lewis had best be salivating at the opportunity to run roughshod over this defensive swiss cheese.

The Basics:
Ball State University Cardinals
Location: Muncie, IN
08 Record: 12-2

University of North Texas Mean Green
Location: Denton, TX
08 Record: 1-11

Offense
For UNT, it’s a pivotal year in the Todd Dodge era coming at a time when it’s either going to succeed for multiple years or crash and burn. Headlining the offense is Dodge’s son Riley as well as only one returning receiver. On the ground, they see Cam Montgomery, who was just shy of 1000 yards last season. Dodge should have time to throw the ball, and Montgomery should have some opportunity for success considering the offensive line returns 4 starters.

For the Cardinals, the good is the return of MiQuale Lewis as well as the receiving corps returning strong. The problems for the Cards are well noted in losing Nate Davis and 4 starters on the offensive line. Stepping into that role is Kelly Page, who has the reigns of the program as a true freshman. The last true freshman QB certainly used that experience to build himself into a draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers.
AdvantageBall_St helmet It’s a close one, but the advantage goes to BSU for the defense they face and the running of MiQuale Lewis.

Defense
For the Mean Green, they have a defense. That’s about the best thing you can say. They showed up to every game last year, though they may have had better results spending that scholarship money on something useful… like a mascot. But I digress. The UNT defense last season got burned repeatedly and routinely, which bodes well for a BSU offensive unit looking to get their feet wet with some success.

For the BSU defense, it will certainly be a different sort of experience with the new leadership. Taking the reigns of the defense, former coach Brady Hoke’s specialty, will be Doug Graber, a veteran coach and experienced defensive guru. His key elements of this defense only has one question mark, the corners, where both starters last season have graduated. Back for the Cardinals though are Brandon Crawford and Sean Baker, and it’s been a long bloodless off season for both.
Advantage: Ball_St helmet Sean “Soul Eater” Baker by himself would win the matchup. Add in Crawford and the other 9 starters and it’s about to get real for the UNT offense.

Coaching
One coach has players land in the NFL like Nate Davis and Tom Brady, is personally responsible for the resurgence of the BSU offense over the last several years, and seems to be genuinely understanding and excited about the challenge ahead. The other coach has a 3-24 record, has won one conference game in two seasons, and is following the Tubby Smith mantra of “When in doubt, play your son”.
Advantage: Ball_St helmet The nod goes easily to Stan Parrish. Todd Dodge would be better suited staying back in Denton and working on his resume. Something tells me after another year like the last one, he’s going to need an updated copy.

Intangibles
It’s the first game of the year, it’s a home game, it should be well attended by the student body, and the crowd for UNT will be virtually non-existent.
Advantage: Ball_St helmet

Mascot
The Mean Green, who apparently instill the fear of meanness and greenness with Scrappy the Eagle.
scrappy the eagle

Charlie Cardinal, avian awesomeness.
charlie cardinal

Advantage: Ball_St helmet Not even close. Is UNT the Eagles? Or the Mean Green? Or both? Who knows. Even if their Eagle wasn’t so shitacular Charlie still gets the nod.

Overall
They say you should take every opponent serious, that any team is capable of beating any other, yadda yadda yadda. Thankfully, I’m not on the team, nor does the ramblings of a fan obsessed blog impact the actual outcome of this game. However, one can bet that after the sour taste left in the mouths of the Cardinals after 08’s epic close, they will want some revenge on someone. Someone that’s respectable and you can learn from but offers no real challenge. Someone that is sort of a pushover. That someone wears green. Mean Green. Oooooooh…. scary.

Prediction
Ball State: 35
North Texas: 10

Cardinal Preview: Central Michigan

vs.

Ball State @ Central Michigan
Location: Mt. Pleasant, MI
Time: 7:00 pm
Television: ESPN2

I’ve thought about this preview all week. Hell, really all season. I think most in the know about these Cardinals had this particular game circled in red as THE GAME for this year. It’s obviously all the more critical now, given the Cardinals’ successes on the field, the opportunity for some special things to happen post-season, and the fact that the Cardinals control their own destiny for a berth in the MAC title game.

To listen to pre-game chatter on the Central Michigan side is shocking and eerily similar to the Indiana pre-game. Apparently Ball State is an extremely weak, overrated, mid-tier MAC school that is the same team as last year that got blown off the field by Central Michigan. Coach Brady Hoke is apparently a scam artist getting weak off cupcake scheduling and a gimmicky offense that is run by a QB that is not all that good to begin with. I’ll have a post up tomorrow debunking the myths about this year’s Cardinal team, but for now I’ll leave it alone.

On the Ball State side of things it’s been guarded optimism. Most fans believe this Cardinal team is a special one and capable of doing things on the gridiron no other team has done before in Muncie. Central has been a demon in and of itself and most are optimistic that they can be exorcised a bit in Mt. Pleasant. There’s been concern about the weather, concern about Dan LeFevour, concern about the CMU crowd and the potentially small BSU one. There’s concern about the mid-week game time. There’s concern about the national stage. There’s concern that all this might be just too good to be true.

But we’re about 27 hours from game time and it’s put up or shut up time for both these squads. Whoever loses is out of the MAC West race, and for Ball State a loss is a death knell to any BCS hopes they might harbor, however small those chances might be.

The Basics:
Central Michigan University Chippewas
Location:
Record: 8-2 (6-0 MAC)
Last Week: W 33-30 @NIU (OT)

Ball State University Cardinals
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 10-0 (6-0 MAC)
Last Week: W 31-16 @Miami

Offense: Barring a complete collapse of the weather in Mt. Pleasant, this one should be very offensively centered. When CMU has the ball, they’ll look to Dan LeFevour at QB to lead the 4th ranked offensive unit in the conference. They are 2nd in the pass department in conference, 7th in the rush, and LeFevour is a mobile, experienced, good-decision maker in clutch moments. The Chips average 279 through the air and 131 on the ground all while putting up 28.7 points per game (good for 5th best in the MAC).

LeFevour has completed 68% of his pass attempts this season, as well as throwing 3 INTs to his 13 TDs. He doesn’t allow for the offense to self destruct or get in challenging situations, thanks largely to the mobility he has. He is the team’s leading rusher and 9th in the MAC with 56 yards per game and 5 TDs on the year. The Chips have a quality back-up in senior Brian Brunner, who filled in for LeFevour while he was banged up earlier in the year. Brunner isn’t as mobile as LeFevour, but is a much bigger weapon to stretch the field. Brunner was also the field general for the victory for the Chips at Indiana. Two of the Chips’ weapons at the wideout position are Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown. Both have 5 scores on the year, though both are containable. It certainly helps that defenses usually have at least one player spy LeFevour, as it opens up the coverage down the field.

The offensive line for the Chips has been susceptible to pressure up front, sitting at 10th in the MAC in sacks allowed, even with LeFevour’s mobility. Last week against NIU the Chips gave up 3 sacks in an overtime win. If the offensive line for the Chips shores up, opens holes, and protects the pocket, then LeFevour will have the time needed to step into throws or take off.

For Ball State, it’s the tale of two offenses this season. There’s the offense that gets hot and takes advantage of opportunities and early drives and there is the offense that struggles to get going, sometimes to the tune of a first quarter shutout. Nate Davis and company take a high octane attack capable of shredding people through the air, but different than the Ball State team of last year, this Cardinals team has a consistent and steady running game.

MiQuale Lewis and Cory Sykes demonstrate weekly the speed and elusiveness that makes them premier running backs in the MidAmerican Conference. Lewis has accumulated 1273 yards and 17 TDs this season, good for 9th in the nation in rushing yards. At the skill positions the Cardinals are deep with any one of Briggs Orsbon, Darius Hill, Myles Trempe, Louis Johnson, Dan Ifft, or Madaris Grant making big catches and stretching defenses. All have their shortcomings, none are especially scary, but together, they are an outstanding corps of wideouts and tight ends.

The offensive line for the Cardinals is one of the best you’ve never heard of. The o-line deserves much of the credit for the success of the Cardinals running game and for protecting Nate Davis to the tune of 8 sacks through 10 games, good for 6th best in the nation. They rendered All-MAC defensive end Larry English virtually non-existent for the NIU game, a player who recorded 5 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks against the Chips the following week.
Advantage: The Chips have one player responsible for their success as Dan LeFevour is the straw that stirs the drink. For the Cardinals, it’s a team effort, with Davis, the receivers, Lewis, and most importantly… the offensive line. I’ll take my chances that one player has a bad night before an entire offensive unit. For Chips fans who may think this Cardinals team is a one trick pony wearing #13, you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

Defense: By the numbers alone, the CMU defense isn’t all that daunting. They are 8th in the conference in points allowed per game (28.7) and 12th best for yards allowed at a staggering 406 yards per game. The Chips are solid against the run, allowing a 2nd best in conference 133 yards per game. But that may be because teams just choose to throw the ball a whole lot more against these Chips.

Pass defense hasn’t been their strong suit, as CMU yields an average of 273 yards per game, good for dead last in the MAC. That has to make Nate Davis’ mouth water. But it’s feast or famine for the Chips in the defensive side of things. A pressure based defense gets to the QB a fair number of times, a conference leading 27 times to be exact. If a QB is composed, can make good reads, and avoid the pressure though, this defense is ripe for the picking. The secondary has only picked off 7 passes all year.

For Ball State it has been a bend but don’t break sort of season for a unit much maligned early on. The Cardinals have given up less than 20 points in each of their last 5 outings and a team hasn’t scored more than 24 all season. The Cardinals lead the MAC in interceptions and have a defensive secondary virtually unrivaled in the MidAmerican conference.

The key defensively for these Cardinals will be the play of the defensive front 7, and more specifically their ability to limit the opportunities of Dan LeFevour on the ground. If they can force him to beat him with his arm, and go through this secondary to do it, then it will be a successful day for Ball State. The key to this lies in the hands of Davyd Jones, Bryant Haines, and Brandon Crawford.
Advantage: Push. The Chips have a serviceable defense, but they have yet to face an attack like the Cardinals. You are just as likely to have Nate Davis drop 300 on you through the air as you are to have MiQuale Lewis throw up 150. It would be clearly be in the Cardinals favor were it not for the pressure and sacks that CMU is able to put on opposing QBs.

Coaching: Butch Jones is a quality head coach in his second year at the helm for CMU. It is a safe bet that he won’t be there for long as the BCS conferences come calling after several more years like this one and the last one. Jones has a MAC title under his belt, but it is yet to be seen if it his truly his success or the success or his predecessors at CMU. In a few years he may be one of the hottest coaches in the country if he continues to win, recruits well, and does it clean.

Brady Hoke has returned to his alma mater and made the most of his first opportunity to be a head coach. In just six years he has righted the ship that was left for him by Bill Lynch and made the Cardinals a winner and himself a hot commodity in the coaching market that’s starting to heat up.
Advantage: Push.

Mascot:
Central Michigan:

Since Central Michigan is too much of a pussy politically correct to have a mascot, I have taken the liberty of doing it for them. Suck on that, Indian sympathizers!! Blankets for everyone!

Ball State University:

Charlie Cardinal. Feathered. Fierce. Robin-sized.
Advantage: I have said it a thousand times, there’s a way to balance being Indian themed and having a mascot. Look at the horse and spear at Florida State. Quite simply, CMU either took the bitch way out and never had one in the first place, or they’re too scared now to try it. If Notre Dame can make a Fighting Irishman respectable, I’m sure you could slap some feathers on someone.

Overall: If you suggest that Ball State wins this game, Central Michigan fans will remind you quickly of last year’s 58-38 win in Muncie, laugh at your obvious failure to understand the pecking order in the MAC and then continue doing whatever it is they do in Mt. Pleasant. But the fact is that this is a Ball State team vastly different from last year’s edition. A run game is present. The Cardinals are at full strength. Momentum is rolling. The defense figured out how to stop teams when it counts.

The common opponents for the Cards and Chips have been Indiana, Northern Illinois, and Toledo. And while the Cardinals and Chips are both 3-0 against them, BSU’s average margin of victory was 28, with their smallest margin at 22. For CMU, their average margin was 2.3 points, with one of their wins coming in overtime. The Chips have won 5 games this year by a margin of 3 points or less. Some will say that makes them tough. I will say that the truly tough don’t have close games. They come out and stomp ass from pillar to post.

Many BSU fans are predicting a closely fought game, an epic showdown, and a battle that is worthy of the term “classic”. CMU fans will have you believe that it won’t be close. This flash in the pan Nate Davis will bomb on national television, the dream season ends, and Ball State and their pissant fans will once again remain subservient to the Chips. The bottom line is that opinion, much like those who spew it, are ridiculous. They are right in that it won’t be close. They are wrong as to who that large margin will favor. The Cards win. Large. Stylish. Going away.

Prediction:
Ball State 41
Central Michigan 24

Cardinal Preview: Miami

vs.

Ball State vs. Miami (Ohio)

Location: Oxford, OH
Time: 7:00 pm
Television: ESPN2

What better way to celebrate Veteran’s Day than by watching MAC football on the WorldWideLeader?! Walter watched his buddies die face down in the muck so that we could all sit back on our fat asses and watch Ball State steamroll another opponent into oblivion. This week’s victim? Miami of Ohio. Prepare yourselves, peasants, as a real team rolls through your Oxford village to rape, pillage, and rape some more. (Metaphorically speaking, of course)

The Basics:
Ball State University Cardinals:
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 9-0 (5-0 MAC)
Last week: W 45-14 Northern Illinois

Miami University Red Hawks:
Location: Oxford, OH
Record: 2-7 (1-4 MAC)
Last week: L 17-37 @ Buffalo

Offense: The only thing offensive about Miami’s attack is the ineptitude with which they run it. 11th in the conference at 327 ypg, and it’s no secret that this RedHawk attack just isn’t very potent. They are weakest in the run, averaging just a shade over 116 yards per game, and that bodes well for this Ball State defense. Starting RedHawk QB Clay Belton will also not be playing in this game with what is qualified as a “sore chest”. Which considering the stakes of this game, makes him a gigantic bitch. I’m not sure where on the continuum “Sore Chest” ranks, but I’m thinking it’s right below “Hang Nail” and right above “Minor Ouchie”.

For Ball State, the offense decided to come out of its proverbial shell and torch Northern Illinois last Wednesday. QB Nate Davis, who threw for 300 yards and 4 TDs in the victory, played only 3 quarters or so as did the rest of the first-team. So expect a well-rested, recently clicking, hungry offense to show up looking for dinner. MiQuale Lewis also should have a rather large day at the office as well.
Advantage: Gigantic advantage offensively for the Cardinals. They’re a better unit overall, and facing a significantly worse defensive unit. Expect a field day from both Davis and Lewis.

Defense: Miami’s defense is surprisingly not bad against the pass, and not that great against the rush. In their last two games, they’ve given up 300+ on the ground to Kent, and 216 on the ground to the Buffalo Bulls. Combined with the fact that they haven’t played any of the Big 3 from the MAC West (CMU, WMU, BSU) and this is an offense that will have never seen the sort of precision in the passing game that the Cardinals have. This defense is going to get torched, plain and simple.

For Ball State, it’s simply a matter of continuing to do great things at crucial times. For a unit that is often overshadowed by the offense, this defense is surprisingly stout. There is good penetration, good coverage, and a flight to the football that’s quick, aggressive, and hard-nosed. Good things are happening on the defensive side of the football, and there is no reason to believe that they won’t continue against a hapless Miami team.
Advantage: The quality of the opponent is nowhere close to even. Miami’s defense has no chance at shutting down this Cardinals offense without help from Ball State in the form of unforced errors, penalties, and turnovers.

Coaching: Brady Hoke… damn good coach. Shane Montgomery… damn. Miami used to be the cream of the MAC crop, but heavy is the head that wears the crown, I reckon. Long gone are Big Ben and most of their trendy JCrew wearing richkid fanbase. Welcome to mediocrity, suckers!!
Advantage:

Mascot:
Miami:

Swoop the AIDS Bird Redhawk. Not only unoriginal in its name, what the hell is with the costume? It looks like a junior high sewing project. White beak and feathers? How Aryan of you, Miami. Watch out!! Obama did win last week!

Ball State:

Charlie Cardinal. The most vicious Robin-sized bird in all the land. And not racist at all.

Advantage: I hate teams that change their mascot from an Indian-themed one to a non-Indian themed one. If you’re the Redskins, be the Redskins. It’s not like your the Miami Litter-Hating Casino-Owning Alcoholics. Quit being gigantic blubbering vaginas.

Overall: This game will come down not to whether or not Ball State wins, it will come down to by how much, and how much time can the starters rest. Normally a mid-week MAC game would worry me, but spending some time after the game with the players and Coach Hoke last week has convinced me this team is focused, hungry, and ready to rip it up. Look for BSU to pour it on early, sit the starters as much as possible in the second half, and get ready for what may be the biggest game in program history to date… Central Michigan.

Prediction:
Ball State 35
Miami 14

Cardinal Preview: Eastern Michigan

vs.

Ball State vs. Eastern Michigan
Location: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, IN
Game Time: 12:00pm
Television: Available via BSU Sports All Access

This weekend’s game sees the Cardinals return home to the nest to take on Eastern Michigan. A quick glance at the record, BSU at 7-0 and EMU at 2-6, says this one will be a walk. A statistical analysis shows more of the same, as BSU trumps EMU in nearly every major statistical category. The Cardinals are well-rested, coming off their first bye week of the season, and Dante Love is back on campus and was reportedly at practice on Thursday. It’s also Parents Weekend in Muncie, so expect a nice sized little crowd at the Scheu.

The Basics:
Ball State University Cardinals
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 7-0 (3-0 MAC)
Last Week: Idle

Eastern Michigan Eagles
Location: Ypsilanti, MI
Record: 2-6 (1-3 MAC)
Last Week: L Akron 42-35

Offense: For Eastern Michigan, their offense is respectable but not impressive. They currently rank 5th in the conference in total offense, averaging just a smidge over 382 yards per game. Their bread and butter has been the rush, as they average 176 per game on the ground, and have two tailbacks (Terrence Blevins and Dwayne Priest) in the top 11 in rushing yards conference-wide. The passing attack ranks 9th in the MAC, and is paced by QB Andy Schmitt who tosses for 151 per game on average. Schmitt is capable of running the ball, but is only average. And that’s really all this team is… is average. Nothing exceptional, but nothing exceptionally bad. They’re 9th in the conference in points scored, clocking in at just under 22 points per game.

For Ball State, it’s been an offensive explosion on the season, though the slow starts in recent games have some fans concerned. BSU ranks 2nd in rushing and 3rd in passing, but leads the conference not only in total offense but also scoring. They execute well, as evidenced by the fact that they lead the MAC in fewest penalty yards. Pacing the attack is Nate Davis at QB, MiQuale Lewis at RB, and the space eaters up front on the offensive line. Ball State protects the ball, and is second in the conference with a +6 turnover margin.
Advantage: MiQuale Lewis by himself averages more yards on the ground per game than the dynamic duo of EMU tailbacks. Throw Nate Davis in the mix and it’s a large margin.

Defense: What will make EMU fans happy is that they lead the conference in pass defense, at around 150 yards surrendered per game. The bad news is those stats may be a bit skew, as they have yet to play Central Michigan, Western Michigan, or obviously Ball State. This defensive unit for the Eagles has the potential to be shredded through the air. Teams just don’t take advantage of it. Why? Because the Eagles are the worst team in the league at defending against the run. They give up a staggering 223 yards per game on the ground. They’ve given up 200+ yards to a single player in each of their last two games.

For the Cardinals, the defense took a lot of heat early on this season. When compared to such a high powered offense, it’s only natural. I had serious reservations earlier this year about the ability of this defense to allow the offense to have an off game or two. Surprisingly enough, this defense is not half bad. They are 3rd in the conference in total yards allowed, and though not exceptional at any one area, they are solid across the board. They force turnovers, plug holes along the offensive line, and each game has gotten better and better. They’ve allowed 7 points total the last two weeks combined, and that 7 came with under a minute to go in a large win.
Advantage: MiQuale Lewis is going to go hog wild on this defense. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see both Lewis and Sykes top the century mark.

Coaching: Jeff Genyk is 13-33 in 4 seasons at the helm of the failboat that is EMU football. Genyk is poised to turn the Eagles around, but “turn around” is a very relative term. He did defeat CMU and WMU last season, and his team is beginning to get talent to sign on the dotted line. But Hoke has guided the Cards to an undefeated season despite the loss of Dante Love, is being mentioned for nearly every low tier BCS vacancy, and has put together a great couple years in Muncie.
Advantage:

Mascot:
Eastern Michigan Eagles:

Swoop the Eagle. Controversy surrounded this bird, as fans of the program didn’t want the change made from the Eastern Michigan Hurons. Apparently, the Indian lobby is a lot stronger than the shittily made mascot costume lobby.

Ball State Cardinals:

Charlie Cardinal. Raise your hand if you don’t suck.
Advantage:

Overall: EMU is in the infancy stages of becoming a respectable football program again. They would do well to take a look at what Hoke did since his arrival at BSU. Is Ball State beatable? Sure. EMU proved they’ve got no problem beating the conference big boys last year. But the bottom line is the talent is too different, the stakes too high, and this BSU team too good to consider picking against them.

Prediction:
Ball State 41
Eastern Michigan 14