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Know an ’11 Opponent: Oklahoma

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!

Oklahoma Sooners

Remember how we’ve said numerous times that streaks are made to be broken? Well, it looks like the Cards are going to get a chance to break quite a few when they match up against Oklahoma on October 1st. For starters, it would be only their first win against a ranked opponent in their last ten tries. Even more impressive is that Oklahoma stands a very good shot to be ranked #1 when the Cardinals head to Norman. It would also be only their second victory on the road over a BCS opponent in their last 40 tries. That’s a considerable amount of streak breaking should Ball State be able to do what many are considering the impossible when they lace it up against the Sooners. Considering the history of the program, the talent on the roster, their status as presumptive favorite for the National Championship, and BSU’s presumed “rebuilding year”, impossible isn’t that difficult of a reach for many to make. The thing about impossible is that it implies certainty, and in football, no matter the opponents, there is never anything that’s a certainty.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?
An argument could be made that there has not been a more dominant team in the 2000s than Oklahoma. While the Sooners have only claimed the national championship once in Bob Stoops’ twelve seasons, they have played in four national title games along the way. They’ve also played in twelve consecutive bowls, 8 of them BCS bowls, and every year seem to raise the bar a bit higher for what constitutes an offensive explosion. They’ve also claimed seven conference titles and, oh by the way, they’ve won eleven consecutive home games versus non-conference non-BCS automatic qualifying conference members.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is the predominant reason why the successes listed above have been obtained. Since his arrival in Norman, OU had five consecutive non-winning seasons. Barring some sort of mass chaos, and as long as Stoops remains at the helm, it’s a safe bet that won’t be happening any time soon for the Sooners. Oklahoma has been his only stop as a head coach, ringing up a 129-31 record and an impressive 85-19 slate against the Big 12. Critics often point to his .500 record in bowl games or his three lost national championships as some sort of indication that his coaching prowess isn’t as legendary as many think. What’s more likely is because of the impressive regular seasons that occur like clockwork, the Sooners play marquee bowls against marquee teams, and with stiffer competition comes a greater propensity for a loss. Having said that, if OU fans ever get tired of Stoops and his .500 postseason record, feel free to send him on up to Muncie. I’m sure we can tolerate that “failure”.

Players and Stats of Note
It may be easier to tell you about the inexperienced players on Oklahoma’s roster than to go into detail about who they have returning. But that wouldn’t be fair and the heading of this section would be a lie. Smarmy? Check. Inappropriate? Of course. Immature? Without a doubt. But OTP isn’t a liar. Eight starters return on offense, seven on defense, and offensively, junior QB Landry Jones is where the offensive story starts. It’s safe to assume that Jones is a Heisman trophy frontrunner and will be a first round draft pick when he enters the NFL. Last season saw Jones throw for 4718 yards and 38TDs, and his 405 completions broke the school record. his biggest target is senior WR Ryan Broyles, who racked up 1622 yards and 14TDs last year. OU’s rushing attack will potentially be paced by true freshman Brandon Williams, who has the dubious task of replacing DeMarco Murray. Gone for the Sooners is former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who left for Indiana, but continuity shouldn’t be a problem as Josh Heupel fills the co-offensive coordinator role for Stoops after coaching the QBs for the last six seasons. Joining him and the other half of that co- sandwich is Jay Norvell who held the same post with the now departed Wilson for the last two seasons. The Sooners also only replace one on the offensive line, in case you were looking for even more reason to worry. Defensively, the Sooners bring back senior CB Jamell Fleming who was #2 in the FBS in passes defended and sophomore LB Tony Jefferson used his 65 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 INTs to be named Co-Big 12 Freshman Defender of the Year. Senior DE Frank Alexander returns also, along with his 7 sacks from last year. Yeah… this OU defense is a daunting mix of talent, skill, and experience.

If Oklahoma Football Was a Musician
This was a challenge for us here at OTP. We wanted to do something worthy of the opponent. You have a program with seven national titles, a great tradition, and recently one of the best runs in modern college football. They have more 10 win seasons than any other program, been ranked #1 more than any other program, have won more games in the modern era than any one else, and they’re the only program to have played in all five BCS bowls. A simple singular musician or band wouldn’t do. Oh no, Edge came through with a wonderful suggestion. We needed legends covering another legend. Congrats Oklahoma, you’re Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, and Billy Joel covering the Beatles.

How Worried Are We?
CODE ARGYLE, MFers!! We rarely feel the need to “Go Plaid” here at OTP, as we are ever the eternal optimists about Ball State. If the Cards scrimmaged the Colts, we’d say there was a chance. Peyton could develop some unknown skin disorder, Reggie Wayne could have both hands lopped off in a Kuwaiti shoplifting scandal, etc. We’re saying there’s a shot. A slim shot. And in truth, that’s sort of what we’re saying here. Oklahoma is good. Real good. But they are not invincible. Whether or not Ball State happens to catch them on one of those days is what matters. Suffice to say, BSU needs some help. What kind of help? Oklahoma miscues, a picture perfect game from the Cards, and more than a little luck would be a good starting point. Most will write this off as a “body bag” kind of game, and they may be right when it’s over. But I remember Michigan. I remember Nebraska. I remember thinking BSU had no chance against either, but if a few plays went different ways, BSU would have walked out a winner. Having said that, I am simply praying for a good showing and an injury-free afternoon. It’s these sorts of potential blowout type games that prove that not all losses are created equal. I’m no fan of moral victories, but there are many plausible outcomes where an L goes in the ledger, but my optimism for the season increases. Plus, and not to be overlooked, this game is the one before the Red River Rivalry against Texas. It’s not a certainty they will look past BSU, as OU is a disciplined team, but if there ever was a chance to catch an opponent’s gaze drifting down the calendar to the next week on the schedule, this is it.

Enemy Recon
For your Oklahoma reading pleasure, there’s plenty of places to check out. SBNation has an OU fan site in Crimson and Cream Machine, there’s Blatant Homerism,  and Boomer Shimko. There’s an OU aggregate site that compiles everything around the internet at SoonersETC and the official OU athletics site is here. Also, there’s a lively community among the standard Rivals and Scout sites. Plenty of reading, which is pretty much the norm for a premier program.

Know an ’11 Opponent: Army

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!

Army Black Knights

For the BSU Cardinals, playing a service academy is certainly nothing new since I’ve been a BSU fan. The Navy Midshipmen have battled the Cards three times (1991, 2007, 2008) and this year’s opponent, the Army Black Knights, have dotted the schedule twice before (1999, 2009). Playing the service academies in and of itself is pretty respectable in my opinion since these are the future defenders of the freedom that allows me to sit on my lazy ass on Saturday and drink copious amounts of alcohol while screaming at a bevy of 18-22 year olds as if my impassioned pleas can be heard through my television screen, up through the satellite, and somehow into their helmets. To be fair, it’s a pretty big ass television, so if there was ever a way, I feel like this would be the most plausible way for that to happen. Aside from just scheduling them and allowing them the honor of checking out the great metropolis of Muncie in the event the game is at home for the Cardinals, it’s actually been a successful endeavor on the field for the Cards as well. 3-2 against the service academies and undefeated against the Mids at 3-0. For you non-math folks out there, that means we’re 0-2 against the Black Knights, but much like a heater at the craps table, streaks are made to be broken.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?
The short answer is not much. The Black Knights were indeed a bowl team last season but that had more to do with a vast quantity of bowls and a schedule that was far from loaded with juggernauts. They did play three MAC teams (EMU, Temple, and Kent) beating two, so I guess I can’t say too much when looking back at how BSU fared in the MAC. Their seven wins last season and their winning record was the first in a while, as they had gone 30-108 since 1997 and the Black Knights haven’t beaten a top 20 team since 1972. Recent fans or younger ones won’t remember the Army football of decades ago, but there was a time when they were THE team. Three straight national titles from 1944-1946 and 14 Top 25 finishes in their history means they were damn good at one point, it’s just that “one point” wasn’t any time recently.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Rich Ellerson is the football General for the Black Knights, and if his triple option looks familiar, it should. His offensive teeth were cut under Paul Johnson at Hawaii. Johnson’s triple option has run roughshod over the ACC at Georgia Tech for the last three years, and at Navy before that and Ellerson has brought the same sort of attack to West Point. Ellerson’s tactics and strategery have clearly been a welcome change of pace, as Army posted their best record since 97 and their first bowl berth since 96 in just Ellerson’s second year at the helm. At Army, he’s rang up a 12-13 record which is actually quite impressive when you look at the years of futility before he got there. Before that, he was at Cal Poly, where he won three Great West Conference titles in eight seasons. So winning is certainly in his background and experience. Whether or not that sort of success can sustain at Army is a tough challenge, though, but he’s on the right track.

Players and Stats of Note
Let’s focus on the defense first. If for no other reason than I like to be positive. The Black Knights return only five starters on that side of the ball, and have lost plenty from their 2010 edition. Gone are last season’s sack leader, tackles leader, tackles for loss leader, interceptions leader, and QB hurries leader. That’s good. Statistically, the defensive players returning of note are junior DE Jarrett Mackey (47tkls, 4 sacks) and senior CB Richard King (4 INTs). Offensively it is a bit of a different story. They return six starters and almost everyone who accumulated any sort of yardage passing, rushing, or receiving. Eight of their top ten rushers are back, led by junior Jared Hassain who went for 1013 yards and 9TDs. More irksome is junior QB Trent Steelman who while passing for a shade under 1000 yards and 7 TDs ran for 841 yards and 11 TDs. It’s not like BSU has had any trouble with mobile quarterbacks recently. Wait a minute…

Army’s success in the triple option is impressive to say the least and usually the more years an offense like the triple option is in place for the skill players the more effective it becomes. That’s the bad news. The good news on the offense is the offensive line is made up of four new starters. All have game experience, just not the starting experience like those who graduated, and the triple option and its success is almost entirely contingent on the ability of the offensive line to function within it.

If Army Football was a Musician
So Army was great decades ago, pretty not so great now, but because of their service academy classification, Army gets our respect no matter their recent lack of success on the field. Good a while ago and deserving respect? Army… you’re Meatloaf

How Worried Are We?
A nice calm cooling Code Yellow for the Black Knights. Some are pointing to this game as a challenge, and while it may be, I still have to believe this will be the most winnable nonconference game for the Cardinals. It’s at home and after several tune ups, so while far from a certain win, it’s a definite lean toward the victory side of the fence. For some of the Army roster, they’ll only look at the lack of success the last couple of seasons for the Cards and add in the fact that some players on the Army roster were around for the 24-17 Army win against the Cards in 09 and an incorrect aura of confidence may creep into West Point. For Ball State to have a season considered successful, this is one of the games that needs to definitely be chalked up in the W category.

Enemy Recon
Surprisingly enough, despite our internet sleuthing skills, we couldn’t find an Army fan blog. If anyone knows of one, drop us a comment or a line and let us know. Their official site is here.

Know an ’11 Opponent: South Florida

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!

South Florida Bulls

If you’re like me, you look at the landscape of college football and quietly chuckle at the Big East. It’s only fitting, really, when you peruse the cast of characters that make up this “BCS Conference”. There’s perennial front-runner Pittsburgh, who was really only good for the chuckles provided by Dave Wannstedt and the inevitable late season loss that cost Pitt that next level of respect and status. There’s WVU who only provides a how to book for student conduct administrators for pretty much every other campus across the nation. Connecticut lost close to $2 million on their Fiesta Bowl trip last season, got blown out by Oklahoma, and then lost head coach Randy Edsall to his “dream job” at Maryland (which totally cannot be true). Cincinnati was the morbidly obese girl who got smoking hot through plastic surgery for a couple of years and then plumped back up the second she realized the guy she loved had his eyes on that Catholic chick up the street. Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse have been locked in a proverbial battle of Big East mediocrity for a while now, each sneaking in a random not-so-awful season but always reverting back to the mean. So when BSU announced they were venturing to play Big East member South Florida, I was stoked. Sunny weather and a football team that didn’t really seem all that intimidating. Known mostly for their former head coach venturing somewhere between Psychoville and Crazytown on the sidelines, I was at least not extremely worried. Then I started reading and researching. Then I started to realize that a.) I don’t know as much as I thought I did and b.) it’s totally warranted to worry, which I totally started to do.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Nothing much, really. I mean, once they landed in the Big East in 2005, they’ve just went to 6 consecutive bowl games, won eight games the last three seasons, nine the two before those, and their .500 6-6 in ’05 was their worst since landing in a BCS automatic qualifier. Apparently, USF didn’t get the memo that when you go up in conference prestige you’re supposed to get pounded on for a few years. Last season was the first for Skip Holtz, and by all measures it was a successful one. The only losses for the Bulls came at the hands of ranked opponents Florida (#8) and West Virginia (#25) and eventual Fiesta Bowl participant Connecticut. For a program that hadn’t even played football at all until 1997, that’s a pretty impressive 14 years.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Skip Holtz might as well change his name to DJ Khaled, because all he does is win. Back to back 9-win seasons and CUSA titles at East Carolina landed him this job at USF and if his first year is any indication it appears that success like that is on its way. I’ve always thought that coaching is really all about timing, and Holtz is hitting at just the right moment. Every other Florida school has experienced a bit of a drop off allowing him to close the gap between the other traditional powers and the Bulls. Add in the fact that USF competes in the Big East without a presumptive frontrunner or traditional powerhouse and its a recipe for success for Holtz and the Bulls. Overall, Holtz is 46-32. Of note, Holtz at USF is 4-1 off a loss, which could very possibly be the case on September 10 when the Cards venture to Tampa, as the season opener for the Bulls is at Notre Dame.

Players and Stats of Note
For USF, the lack of returning starters is actually pretty encouraging. With only five on the offense and six on the defense, it isn’t like this is a team loaded with returning starters. That’s the good news. The bad news is two-fold, really. The first piece of troubling news is that when you’re a successful program in the hotbed of Florida recruiting, replacing talented seniors is as easy as plugging in a talented sophomore or junior. It’s not like there’s a lack of fast talented athletes in the Sunshine State. The second piece of troubling news isn’t how many but rather who the Bulls return. They lose their top rusher and receiver from last season, but return the next highest 6 contributors in both categories. Defensively, the Bulls return 6 of 11, and do return their leading pass defender from ’10 in FS Jerrell Young (3 INTs) and DE Ryne Giddins had 3.5 sacks in just three starts last year.

If USF Football was a Musician…
I had to consult with OTP’s Edge for this one as he is the musical genius in this place. USF is a program that is consistently good. Not blow your skirt off awesome, but better than most. They aren’t flashy or glitzy to any degree, but there they are cranking out eight or nine wins and marching to their seemingly ever-present successful drum. Congrats, South Florida… you’re Ben Harper.

How Worried Are We?

Code Red for the Bulls. It’s not so much that USF is a juggernaut, but their talent, skill, and coaching is good enough to warrant no small amount of concern. They aren’t unbeatable, but I think it’s safe to say that if both teams show up and play their A game, it’s going to be difficult for the Cards to walk out of Raymond James Stadium a winner. However, with the right mix of Cardinal successes and USF miscues, it’s possible, and really, when playing a BCS conference team on the road and looking for only the 2nd such win in program history, possible is something I’ll settle for.

Enemy Recon
You like blogs, right? Of course you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. Voodoo Five is your authority for all things USF related from the blogosphere as their representative in the SBNation army.  Their official athletics page can be found here.

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.