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Updated MAC Championship Scenarios

MACThe games this week in the MAC for our midweek slate had significant impact to the Conference Championship race. In the East, Ohio is now out of contention following their loss to Bowling Green. Buffalo’s loss to Toledo made the Bulls’ road a bit tougher than it was, and has led to a play-in game for the MAC East title on Black Friday. That Rocket win also kept Toledo’s hopes for a MAC West title on life support, but the Rockets do have a feasible way in to Detroit, albeit a small one. The same could be said for BSU who will need help, and a considerable amount of it.

MAC East

    • Bowling Green:
      • Current Record: 7-3 (5-1)
      • Remaining Games: @EMU, @BUFF
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W @Buffalo
    • Buffalo:
      • Current Record: 7-3 (5-1)
      • Remaining Games: @MIA, BG
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W vs BG
    • Ohio:
      • Current Record: 6-4 (3-3)
      • Remaining Games: KENT, UMASS
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated
    • Akron:
      • Current Record: 3-7 (2-4)
      • Remaining Games: @UMASS, TOL
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
    • UMass:
      • Current Record: 1-8 (1-4)
      • Remaining Games: AKR, @CMU, @OHIO
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
    • Kent State:
      • Current Record: 3-8 (2-5)
      • Remaining Games: @OHIO
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
    • Miami:
      • Current Record: 0-10 (0-6)
      • Remaining Games: BUFF, @BSU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.

MAC West

    • Northern Illinois:
      • Current Record: 10-0 (6-0)
      • Remaining Games: @TOL, WMU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W @ Toledo -OR-
        • Tol L @ AKR and BSU L v MIA
        • L @ Toledo and W vs WMU and BSU W vs MIA: Tiebreaker ensues where cross over opponent record determines divisional champion
    • Ball State:
      • Current Record: 9-2 (6-1)
      • Remaining Games: MIA
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W vs MIA and NIU L @ TOL and NIU loss vs WMU
        • W vs MIA and NIU loss @TOL and TOL W @AKR: Tiebreaker ensues where cross over opponent record determines divisional champion
    • Toledo:
      • Current Record: 7-3 (5-1)
      • Remaining Games: NIU, @AKR
      • MACC Bound If:
        • W vs NIU and W @AKR and BSU loss vs MIA
        • W vs NIU and NIU W vs WMU and BSU W vs MIA: Tiebreaker ensues where cross over opponent record determines divisional champion
    • Central Michigan:
      • Current Record: 3-6 (2-3)
      • Remaining Games: @WMU, MASS, EMU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Mathematically Eliminated
    • Eastern Michigan:
      • Current Record: 2-8 (1-5)
      • Remaining Games: BG, @CMU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Mathematically Eliminated
    • Western Michigan:
      • Current Record: 1-9 (1-5)
      • Remaining Games: CMU, @NIU
      • MACC Bound If:
        • Mathematically Eliminated

So as you can see, the road to Detroit for the Cardinals is a tough one. With the current projections, Toledo would win the tiebreaker if NIU, BSU, and Toledo all finish with one loss. If BSU and one other opponent finishes with one loss, the tiebreaker is head to head record, and BSU wins out over only Toledo. So for the Cards to make it to Detroit they’ll need NIU to lose to both Toledo and Western Michigan. Toledo may give them problems but Western sucks something awful. What a strange twist of fate that I may have to actually root for PJ Fleck and the Broncos to close the season. Of course, all the speculating is a moot point if the Cards don’t come out and take care of business against Miami on the 29th. That’s 15 days away and there’s still a ton to play for like a potential division title and bowl placement.

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MAC Championship Game Scenarios

MACIt certainly isn’t too soon to start wondering about the MAC Championship game and how certain teams can make it there. At the given time, six teams are still alive for their division, but after the next 48 hours, we’ll have a much cleaner picture about how the divisions shake out and who is still alive. Here’s where we stand now, before the Tuesday night Maction of Ohio @ Bowling Green and Buffalo @ Toledo and Wednesday night’s Game of the Year with NIU/Ball State:

MAC East

  • Buffalo:
    • Current Record: 7-2 (5-0)
    • Remaining Games: @TOL, @MIA, BG
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs BG -OR-
      • L vs BG, W @ Toledo, W @ Miami and BG loss to either Ohio or @EMU
      • L vs BG, W @ Toledo, L @ Miami and BG loss vs Ohio and BG win @ EMU and Ohio W vs Kent and Ohio W vs Umass – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
      • L vs BG, L @ Toledo, W @ Miami and BG loss vs Ohio and BG win @ EMU and Ohio W vs Kent and Ohio W vs Umass – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Bowling Green:
    • Current Record: 6-3 (4-1)
    • Remaining Games: OHIO, @EMU, @BUFF
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs Buffalo, W vs Ohio, W @ EMU
      • W vs Buffalo, W vs Ohio or @ EMU and Buffalo loss to either @Toledo or @Miami
      • W vs Buffalo, L vs Ohio, W @ EMU and Ohio W vs Kent and Ohio W vs Umass and Buffalo loss to either @ Toledo or @ Miami – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Ohio:
    • Current Record: 6-3 (4-2)
    • Remaining Games: @BG, KENT, UMASS
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W @ BG, W vs Kent, W vs UMass and Buffalo loss @ Toledo and Buffalo loss @ Miami and Buffalo loss vs BG
      • W vs BG, W vs Kent, W vs. UMass and BG W vs Buffalo and BG W @ EMU and Buffalo loss to either @Toledo or @Miami – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Akron:
    • Current Record: 3-7 (2-4)
    • Remaining Games: @UMASS, TOL
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
  • UMass:
    • Current Record: 1-8 (1-4)
    • Remaining Games: AKR, @CMU, @OHIO
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
  • Kent State:
    • Current Record: 2-8 (1-5)
    • Remaining Games: MIA, @OHIO
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.
  • Miami:
    • Current Record: 0-9 (0-5)
    • Remaining Games: @KSU, BUFF, @BSU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated.

MAC West

  • Ball State:
    • Current Record: 9-1 (6-0)
    • Remaining Games: @NIU, MIA
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W @ NIU  -OR-
      • L @ NIU, W vs MIA and NIU losses against both @Toledo and WMU and Toledo loss against Buffalo or @Akron -OR-
      • L @ NIU, W vs. MIA and NIU loses against both @Toledo and WMU and Toledo wins against both Buffalo and @Akron – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Northern Illinois:
    • Current Record: 9-0 (5-0)
    • Remaining Games: BSU, @TOL, WMU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs BSU, W @Toledo -OR-
      • L vs BSU, W @ Toledo, W vs WMU and BSU L vs MIA -OR-
      • W vs BSU, L @Toledo, W vs. WMU and BSU W vs. MIA and TOL W against both Buffalo and @Akron – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Toledo:
    • Current Record: 6-3 (4-1)
    • Remaining Games: BUFF, NIU, @AKR
    • MACC Bound If:
      • W vs BUFF, W vs NIU, W @AKR and NIU W vs BSU and BSU L vs MIA
      • W vs. BUFF, W vs NIU, W @AKR and NIU W vs BSU and BSU W vs MIA – a tiebreaker ensues where the team whose crossover opponents had the higher win percentage goes to the MACC
  • Central Michigan:
    • Current Record: 3-6 (2-3)
    • Remaining Games: @WMU, MASS, EMU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated
  • Eastern Michigan:
    • Current Record: 2-8 (1-5)
    • Remaining Games: BG, @CMU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated
  • Western Michigan:
    • Current Record: 1-9 (1-5)
    • Remaining Games: CMU, @NIU
    • MACC Bound If:
      • Not possible. Mathematically eliminated

As you can see, the “control your own destiny” group of NIU, Ball State, Buffalo, and BG are sitting in the driver’s seat at the moment. After Wednesday, either BSU or NIU will need some help to make it to Detroit. For Ohio and Toledo, they need help already and much of it relies on the outcome of tonight’s and tomorrow’s contests. Leave it to the MAC to make it interesting this late in the season.

BSU & NIU By the Numbers

By the Numbers200On Wednesday, the Cards travel to Dekalb for what amounts to a one-game playoff for the MAC West. A victory means the Cards are heading to Detroit for the MAC Championship and a loss means the Cards will need help from Toledo the following week to even make it to a tiebreak situation. Suffice to say, it’s big. Most fans of both programs had this game circled since the summer when the schedules were released as their ” Must Win” of the 2013 season. Now, it’s here.

Each team has had remarkable success this season, with NIU being undefeated at 9-0 and ranked 15th in the latest BCS standings. The Huskies are realistic BCS busters (as they were last season) but of course that all goes away with a loss on Wednesday. The similarities between the programs are numerous, but let’s see how the teams stack up on paper in this 2013 edition of the Battle for the Bronze Stalk!

BSU vs. NIU:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU NIU
Scoring Offense 14th (39.9)
7th (44.2)
Rushing Offense 81st (152.7) 4th (312.7)
Passing Offense 16th (323.0) 66th (232.8)
Total Offense 24th (475.7) 5th (545.4)
Scoring Defense 48th (23.6) 53rd (25.0)
Rushing Defense 98th (197.5) 42nd (147.1)
Passing Defense 46th (222.4) 109th (271.6)
Total Defense 85th (419.9) 84th (418.7)
Sacks 54th (19.0) 16th (26.0)
Sacks Allowed 33rd (13.0) 2nd (5.0)
Turnover Margin 8th (+10) 10th (+9)
3rd Down Conv. % 44th (43.8%) 54th (41.8%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 65th (39.5%) 32nd (35.3%)
Red Zone Conv. % 27th (88.2%) 38th (86.8%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 17th (72.4%) 115th (91.7%)
Punting 62nd (41.3) 69th (41.0)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 6th (31.4) 99th (61.0)

I thought for sure BSU would trail this week’s by the numbers, but they in fact do not, with a 9-8 lead in the stat categories above. That’s as close as you can get though. The big things to note is this week is a battle of strength versus weakness in that NIU’s fantastic rushing offense is going against a not so great rush defense for the Cardinals. Same could be said for BSU’s passing attack versus NIU’s passing defense. NIU does have a marked advantage in sacks, so the offensive line for BSU and protecting Keith Wenning will be the difference maker. Both teams generate a tremendous amount of turnovers, and the game could very well hinge on one of those. The two most interesting stats for me are BSU advantages in the areas of opponent red zone scoring percentages and penalties. It is intangibles like those that make the difference for two evenly matched teams. If NIU is held to field goals rather than touchdowns in the red zone and who commits their usual 60 yards of penalties, it becomes much more likely for a BSU upset. Vegas sees NIU as a 6 point favorite, with a 69 point over/under, and it’s hard for me to take issue with either of those numbers.

The Reaper Cometh for Ron English, Lesson for Coaches

The fall from hot up and comer to unemployed was lightning fast for Ron English (Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com)

The fall from hot up and comer to unemployed was lightning fast for Ron English (Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com)

I was lying in bed last night trying to come up with possible BCS AQ schools that were going to have an opening at the end of this season in part to sort of get a jump on potential destinations for hot young coaches who may be making the leap at the end of this season. No reason for that. Just, you know, thinking about what ifs. Just in case.

There were a rash of mid-season firings (Lane Kiffin, Paul Pasqualoni, and Don Treadwell) but the grim reaper of coaches has been fairly sated over the last few weeks. Logically, it would make sense at this point to just wait, rather than throw a team into disarray with only a few weeks left of a season. I’d like to think the players and staff of a team, though the inevitable decision looms, would like to finish the year with those around them no matter the circumstances. Eastern Michigan apparently thinks differently, and announced today that Ron English has been relieved of his coaching duties effective immediately.

Ron English had such promise when he was announced as the new top dog at the football wasteland that is Ypsilanti, despite the lack of facilities, a pitiful fan following, and a fairly bare cupboard after Jeff Genyk. But the demise of EMU wasn’t just a Genyk issue. The Eagles had a long history of painful underperformance, having not gone to a bowl game since the 1987 California Bowl and not finishing better than 3rd in the division over that same time period. That bowl trip was when they were the EMU Hurons.

Maybe it was the name change to Eagles that made the last 25 years or so that bad. Maybe it was the large shadow cast by neighbors Michigan, Michigan State, and to some degree, Grand Valley State. I’m sure the ebb and flow of the successful MAC programs like Toledo, BG, Ball State, NIU, Ohio, etc. certainly didn’t help matters. But when Ron English took the reigns in December of 2008, I (like a lot of other people) thought it was only a matter of time until the Eagles did their rotation as a good MAC program like everyone else. Boy, were we all fooled.

On paper, English seemed like just the kind of coach the Eagles would need to be successful. His pedigree was a strong one, he was the mythical “Michigan Man”, strong jaw and gravel voice, the kind of coach you felt like players would run through a brick wall for and ask for seconds because his toughness, grit, and resolve would naturally trickle down to them. And to some degree, that was the case.

EMU was never an easy win. His players always seemed to play hard. The smashmouth style that English seemed to employ was a throwback to yesteryear and a tried and true formula for decades of success in the Big Ten’s hallowed halls. The first two years were a disaster, 2-22 overall and 2-14 in the MAC. But fans, MAC lovers, and football aficionados wrote it off as the remnants of decades of failure. Once English got his players in place, his system established, his recruiting humming, it was only a matter of time. And in 2011, that seemed to be coming true.

Picked to finish last in the preseason poll, because… Eastern Michigan, English led the Eagles to a .500 record overall and a .500 record in conference. They were respectable in all their losses, including in Ann Arbor. They also beat in-state Western and Central. They played conference champion NIU within a touchdown at Dekalb on national television to close the season, their 4th appearance of the year on tv. Things were looking up for EMU, but it was fool’s gold. An opportunity lost for English and a return to irrelevance for a program that has had to endure more than their fair share of it. They were 6-4 in need of one more win to lock them into a bowl. Then they lost 20 of 23.

The epitaph of the Ron English story is one all coaches, especially ones at mid-majors with struggling budgets, tepid fan support, and institutional barriers to success would do well to familiarize themselves with. At the conclusion of 2011, English was linked to several higher profile jobs like Illinois, Arizona State, and Washington State. He had gone .500 at EMU of all places and his stock was high. Unlike Brady Hoke, English didn’t jump when an opportunity presented itself. He even turned down an extension at EMU, presumably waiting for that perfect opportunity. And now, two years later, he’s unemployed.

In perhaps the greatest irony, or the most tragic one depending on how you look at it, is that English’s replacement at EMU to close out the 2013 season is former Ball State head coach Stan Parrish, one of the forefathers of the evolution of the MAC to a spread, uptempo, point scoring bonanza that coined MACtion and rendered the old school style boring at best, unsuccessful and uncompetitive at worst.

Ron English will be fine. His experience and non-EMU results will land him a coordinator job and opportunity to hit the reset button on a career that may very well be successful going forward under the right circumstances. But as is often the case when coaches are removed, the real losers aren’t the coaches, the fans screaming for it, or even the program itself. It’s the student-athletes, assistant coaches, and support staff that have already endured more in this season with the murder of one of their own than anyone should have to.

It’s a shame all around, but it underscores the moral of the story for coaches. Strike while the iron is hot, gentlemen, because the fall from the top to the bottom can often times be clocked with an egg timer.

Initial Thoughts on CMU

logo200That was a beat down. A healthy, exciting, crowd satisfying beat down. The Cards put a thrashing on the Central Michigan Chips to the tune of 44-24, thanks largely to Keith Wenning playing like a grown assed man. He failed to hit 300 yards for the second consecutive week, but he came as close as possible, going for 299 on 20-29 passing with 4 TDs. Snead had 118 yards and 2 TDs in what has become a ho-hum stat line and Horactio Banks added 143 yards on 11 carries with a score. OTP favorite Jordan Williams only had one catch but it was an 8-yard TD so that’s pretty slick.

It really was never close. With 13 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter it was 21-0 and the slow starting Cardinals seemed to have said enough is enough for the slowness. The final score isn’t quite indicative of the difference between the two squads, as by the end of the third it was 41-10, and it became clear that CMU was still trying to scrap for scores while BSU had lost a bit of their intensity. The good news is it didn’t matter, and when you can drop a 20-point win on a conference opponent, that’s a good night.

The bad for tonight was the injury to Quake Edwards and as of this writing, I have no other news about that. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have something to pass on. The attendance was abysmal, but frankly, with a windy cold night in Muncie, I can’t blame anyone for staying home. Make up for it by coming out to Miami on Black Friday.

What is there to take away from this? Not much. It was a blowout win against an inferior opponent that needed to happen. After a hiccup against Kent, I was curious if this team was capable of putting their foot on the gas and not letting up and this showed that they are. And oh by the way, no matter what happens the next two games the Cardinals have 9 wins this season and are virtually locked into a bowl I would think. All good things from a big win.

On a brief little site note, a big thanks to everyone who tweeted, emailed, and texted to let us know we got a namedrop on the ESPN2 broadcast. It was a backhanded compliment for the program, but any publicity is good publicity. All of us associated with this site don’t do it for that kind of stuff, and really only do it for a love of Cardinal athletics, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little cool. So thanks to all of you for sharing it with us. We’ll have the Final Word up tomorrow, but for now, it’s savoring this win, the 9th of the season, and readying ourselves for an EPIC contest against OUR MOST HATED RIVAL  NIU one week from tonight.

Go Cards and goodnight!

Countdown to CMU

OTP Countdown200I remember 2008 like it was yesterday. The dread, the worry, the nervousness that surrounded that season’s CMU game was at a threshold we haven’t seen since around OTP. Between Dan LeFevour, what that game meant for what we assumed was a walk to the MAC Championship, and the like combined in a perfect storm of awesome. Hell, that game is what spawned the OTP tradition of breaking out Dancing on the Ceiling from Lionel Richie for big wins. So CMU has had a special place in the collective OTP heart for a little while now.

But this CMU team is not the CMU team of old. After Brian Kelly and Butch Jones left, the reigns were handed to Dan Enos, and short of last season’s one-game-above-.500 finish and a Little Ceasars Bowl berth, the Enos era in CMU has been quite different from the two before it. When Butch Jones took over for Brian Kelly, it was assumed that the Chips would fall back to Earth. They didn’t. Then the worry changed that they never would. So thank God for Enos reminding us all that not all coaches are created equal, some are better than others, and it only takes one person to ruin a decade’s worth of success. That might be a good epitaph to remind Bill Scholl of when it comes time to find the next man to steer the ship.

Tonight, a 3-5 CMU Chippewa team comes to Muncie with hopes of pulling the upset and making some noise in advance of the OH MY SWEET MOTHER OF GOD, BIGGEST GAME EVER next week between BSU and NIU. But hopes are a dangerous thing when traveling to the snake pit known as Scheumann Stadium. Time to count you down to CMU…

5 Things You Should Know

  • Though many fans remember the neck and neck feeling that BSU & CMU had in 2008, since then, the Cards have owned the Chips. The overall series the Cards lead by one (12-11-1) but BSU has one four of the last five against Central. The only loss was in 2009 as CMU was en route to a MAC Championship and BSU was in season one of the Parrish era.
  • CMU will certainly be well-rested at kickoff. The Chips haven’t played since October 19th. Their bye week was the Saturday before the off Saturday before mid-week play started and that calendar oddity means that the Chips will either be rusted or rested, or perhaps a combination of both.
  • Home may be where the heart is but CMU may have forgotten that fact. Tonight’s BSU contest is the 4th road game in a 5 game stretch for the Chips. Though the MAC footprint isn’t huge, they also had a trip to NC State thrown into trips to Oxford, Athens, and now Muncie. Hope they got frequent flier points for all that travel.
  • The Chips may have three wins, but could easily have lost them all. Central Michigan’s three wins this season include an FCS victory and were by a cumulative total of 18 points. Their FBS wins (Miami and Ohio) have a combined record of 6-12 with all 6 of the wins belonging to Ohio who just got bludgeoned on national television last night against Buffalo.
  • CMU’s staff and roster is all about the mitten. 73 of their players hail from the state of Michigan, and 7 members of their coaching staff went to college in the state. It does raise an interesting question of how CMU has fallen off so quickly after the departure of Butch Jones. Dan Enos did go to the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl last year with a 7-6 overall record, but his first two seasons were 3-9 debacles and this season is off to a 3-5 start. With a recruiting base like Michigan you’d think the Chips would at least be somewhat better on a more consistent basis.

4 Players You Should Know

  • RB Saylor Lavallii – Normally, I’m skeptical of people with consecutive multiples of the same letter in their name. With Lavallii it’s back to back so clearly we need to BURN THIS WITCH AT THE STAKE. Saylor is filling in for Zurlon Tipton who  broke his ankle earlier this season and has done so admirably well. He’s 11th in the country in carries and 6th in the MAC and 27th nationally in yards. He’s sort of a poor man’s Quake Edwards capable of 100 yards+ and multiple scores.
  • WR Titus Davis – Everyone remembers (or should) former Chip Antonio Brown who now suits up for the Steelers and their handsy QB, but Davis should pass Brown this season on the all-time scoring list at CMU. He’s a deep ball threat and is capable of torching BSU’s secondary if special attention is not paid to him.
  • QB Cooper Rush – Apparently the next version of Dan LeFevour without the legs, Rush is a passing threat that as a freshman has already put up a 300 yard game this season. He’s fourth in the MAC in passing for 2013 and considering the names above him, that’s impressive.
  • S Kavon Frazier – Frazier made a name for himself and earned MAC West Defensive Player of the Week honors in the process when the Chips upset Ohio. On two consecutive Bobcat possessions, he forced a fumble and an interception respectively, stopping the OU drives and allowing CMU the upset opportunity that they capitalized on. It would seem to me for CMU to pull a similar upset this evening, Frazier and the CMU defense will have to put the brakes on BSU’s offensive onslaught via the same sort of way.

3 Ways We Win

  • The offense plays like the offense usually plays – Though it sounds eerily simplistic, if the offense performs as it has all season with limited errors and virtually no penalties, the opportunities to pull an upset go down dramatically. Central isn’t a team that can go toe to toe with BSU, both at their best, and come out on the other side. Factor in the anticipated weather issues, and BSU cannot let CMU think they have a chance.
  • Pressure Rush and hope he cracks – I don’t think it’s a significant secret that BSU’s defensive unit can be a bit porous at times. As is often the case in the MAC, give receivers enough time to get open and QBs enough time to find them and pretty points ensue. It’s the definition of MACtion. How that’s stopped is pressure up front. The defensive front of BSU should have their chances tonight to create ill-timed and ill-advised throws from a redshirt freshman QB, one whom may find himself introduced repetitively to Messrs Newsome, Ollie, Cox, and Miles.
  • The weather gets ugly – I’ve heard fans today talk about how the poor weather impacts the passing game, and I don’t disagree with that. However, if it’s a slobber knocker of a mudbowl, that means rushing is the only way to move the ball with any sort of consistency. I’ll take the BSU offensive line and Edwards/Banks/Williamson over CMU any day of the week. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s a good one all the same.

2 Cardinal Questions

  • If the passing game becomes a viable option tonight, which receiver steps up? Each game this season it seems like a different receiver has had a monster game, highlight catch, or statistical break out. Willie Snead is the easy choice, and Jordan Williams and Zane Fakes have had their moments recently, so tonight, I’m looking for Jamil Smith to blow the doors off via a punt return or a busted coverage deep route. Smith has been quiet for a bit, and it’s time he announce his presence with authority. Don’t write off the fact that CMU has a strong legged punter in Richie Hogan, who with the wind may outkick his coverage. Big chance for Jamil to bust one.
  • Who on defense is going to capitalize the most on an inexperienced QB with less than ideal conditions? Whether the front seven records sacks and tackles for loss or the secondary capitalizes on rushed throws or wet balls, someone on this defense has got to step up tonight for the Cardinals to avoid the upset. I’ll go with Ben Ingle having a monster night, as the offensive line for CMU will be so concerned with the defensive line he may get several free shots from the weakside.

1 Bold Prediction

On this week’s OTPcast, I predicted 48-30 and I’ll stick with that spread, but significantly reduce the total points. The rain isn’t going to help the MACtion get turned up to 11, and Jason’s prediction of 26-17 seems a bit more likely in terms of the points scored. I would expect the Cards to adapt quickly to whatever mother nature may throw on them, and utilize one of the many gameplans that Lembo and Skrosky have thought through given variables like wind and rain. If the weather truly does limit an offense’s attack, that benefits BSU’s defense considerably, as they can key on just the run. So given the deluge of cats and dogs it may dump in Muncie tonight, I’ll scale back the score but not the optimism. 35 – 17 Cards and isn’t really that close.

No Cardinal Liveblog tonight as it is a homegame, but you can follow our pithy commentary on the game via our Twitter feed, which you should be following already. It’s the best Twitter feed around. About Ball State football. Follow us here.

Ball State & CMU By the Numbers

By the Numbers200There’s just something about a midweek game that let’s you know it’s getting down to serious business time in the MAC. There are three (count ’em: THREE!) games left for this 2013 regular season and that fact alone is literally mind-boggling. I’m not sure where the time has gone, but it’s nut cuttin’ time in the MAC. All eyes will be on Dekalb next week as the undefeated media darling and OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU hosts the Fighting Football Cardinals,  but the most important game is always the most current one. And that’s the CMU Chippewas.

The Chips will come into Muncie tonight for a nationally televised ESPN2 spectacle that will hopefully have a huge student turnout in an effort to help Dance Marathon. So I figure the students will show up in mass effect, but much like the Kent State game and operation 20k, the onus for “good attendance” sort of falls on the season ticket holders, general admission folks, alums, and Delaware County-ites. I’ve railed against the attendance problem for years now, and frankly, I’m running out of breath to do it. This is a football team that’s 8-1, in the hunt for a MAC West championship, and is getting votes in both Top 25 polls. I know it’s Tuesday. I know you probably have work tomorrow. I’m sure there’s a million reasons why you can’t. Kids, commitments, blah blah blah. How about you bring your kids to the game? That seems like a winning idea for sure. Get them hooked on the Cards, have them fall in love with football, and they can grow up and become a superstar. Unless they’re a girl. But you can always let her look at the Code Red Dancers. Lord knows that’s all Jason does.

The Chips come to Muncie at 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the MAC with their wins coming against Ohio, Miami (Ohio), and FCS New Hampshire. Their three wins were at a combined margin of 18 points, so I’m not quite worried about CMU blowing the lights off the scoreboard this evening. They’re also coming off a significant layoff. Where as BSU last took the field 10 days ago, it’s been 17 for the Chips with a bye week before the move to midweek action. Whether that means rust or rest we’ll find out tonight on ESPN2. To the numbers…

BSU vs. CMU:
National Stat Rankings & Statistics
NCAA Stat BSU CMU
Scoring Offense 17th (39.4) 113th (18.6)
Rushing Offense 93rd (141.9) 103rd (125.0)
Passing Offense 16th (325.7) 80th (215.8)
Total Offense 29th (467.6) 108th (340.8)
Scoring Defense 42nd (23.6) 102nd (33.4)
Rushing Defense 104th (206.9) 107th (210.0)
Passing Defense 34th (215.6) 52nd (225.6)
Total Defense 85th (422.4) 93rd (435.6)
Sacks 60th (16.0) 70th (15.0)
Sacks Allowed 27th (11.0) 108th (24.0)
Turnover Margin 16th (+7) 89th (-3)
3rd Down Conv. % 27th (46.6%) 76th (38.3%)
Opp. 3rd Down Conv. % 67th (39.7%) 121st (50.0%)
Red Zone Conv. % 38th (86.7%) 89th (78.6%)
Opp. Red Zone Conv. % 19th (73.1%) 87th (85.7%)
Punting 64th (41.3) 37th (42.5)
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 5th (31.0) 13th (36.6)

Here’s the thing about statistics: In theory, you could craft evidence in any way to support whatever argument you want to make. There’s an exception to that theory, though, and it’s outlined above. We’ve been doing By the Numbers for several years now and I cannot remember a clean sweep statistically for the Cardinals. Truthfully, a 16-1 margin doesn’t ring a bell either, but I could just be getting old and forgetful. What that means is that on paper, the Cardinals are significantly better and better performing than their counterparts on the field tonight. Unless Dan LeFevour sneaks into a CMU jersey, the Cardinals may very well cover the anticipated spread which Vegas opened at 17.5, and has since been bet up to 21 at most books. To have that much of an increase on a midweek MAC game means a lot of money is coming in on the Cards. Whether that’s Vegas sharps’ money or degenerate scumbags who just have to bet on something I guess we shall see this evening. 8pm. ESPN2. Get your thrashin’ boots ready.

MAC Media Picks BSU 3rd, We Disagree (Sort of)

Media day is MACtion when there's no other MACtion to be had.

Media day is MACtion when there’s no other MACtion to be had.

Today is MAC Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit. Fitting that in a sport dominated by dollars and cents and BCS programs making money hand over fist, the MAC is hosting their premier event in a city that just declared bankruptcy and has been sort of a punchline for years now. But I digress. It’s Media Day, which means a couple of things:

  1. The season is fast approaching. Which is nice because these Saturdays where I’m expected to be “productive” or “helpful” or “sober” are getting tiresome.
  2. The media (even ESPN!) is getting an up close and personal look at the MAC and the teams and coaches within it and sharing that view with the world. Always nice to see the MAC take center stage on a day that isn’t a Tuesday night at 8. Though that would be fitting for MAC Media Day.
  3. The MAC media has released their preseason poll. Let’s take a look at that, shall we?

MAC Poll

I thought about getting on here and blasting the media members that voted (assuming those folks’ names are ever released) but alas, I can’t really disagree with any of it. The gap between Toledo and BSU in the West is small enough that it’s really splitting hairs whether or not you put BSU 2 and Toledo 3 or vice versa, the fact remains that the West for all intents and purposes is NIU’s to lose. In the East, the only thing that seems concrete is the bottom 5, as much like Toledo/BSU there seems to be some grouping for the top between Ohio and BG. Though I enjoy flying off the handle at times, this doesn’t seem like the right time to do it. Until I can see some live data in terms of on-field performance, the opinion of the media is just as wildly speculative as mine.

Carter over at EagleTotem did a blogger preseason poll and such and you can check that out here. It’s a small sample size of some of the MAC blogs, and no, we didn’t participate. Not because we don’t play well with others (though we don’t) it just was piss poor timing on our part. If we had, our list would look remarkably similar to the media above with a couple exceptions like BSU 2nd in the West and Buffalo 6th in the East. Why? Because they’re Buffalo.

I’m on top of the world MAC

fisher

Quick, auction off this jersey while it is still worth something!

Is this is the summit for the Mid-American Conference football? Hard to argue against it.

In the past year we’ve had a MAC team play in a BCS game.

In the past week we’ve had a MAC player drafted No. 1 overall.

Granted, this was a weak draft class. Granted, Erik Fisher plays the prestigious position known as offensive tackle. It still counts baby. So much so Central Michigan is literally trying to cash in on all things Eric Fisher.

We could go into how improbable Fisher’s selection is. Such as if he is so good how did Central Michigan lose to Ball State the last three seasons? A Ball State team that scored zero selections in the draft.

Let’s not be bitter. Instead celebrate that someone in our back burner conference could get the attention of scouts so well. MAC football matters right now. As we know that has rarely been the case.

Heck, in the last few years I agreed with critics that the MAC might be better off playing FCS ball. Financially that still might be the case. However the college landscape has changed so much over the last couple of years the MAC is in a great spot.

The Big East (or American Athletic) has been reduced to a corpse not worth joining anymore. Conference USA is a mixed bag of schools that makes no sense. The WAC is gone and the Sun Belt is begging for FCS schools to come in.

The MAC’s greatest advantage has turned out to be their location. The Great Lakes blueprint has kept it stable in the conference expansion talks. The Big Ten is not going to add a MAC school because it has the TV market. Other conferences don’t have any teams in the region to attract a defection. Joining Conference USA or the Mountain West is not worth the added travel expense. Same for the remains of the Big East.

The only scare to the MAC now is the idea of the Big 12 raiding Northern Illinois. If the Huskies keep winning and going to BCS games it could be possible? If West Virginia is not too far away to play in the Big 12 then a MAC school could feasibly do it too. Maybe the ACC tries to get into the Cleveland and Detroit markets? Both seem unlikely but so was Syracuse moving to the ACC five years ago.

The MAC is one of the most stable and cohesive conferences left in FBS. Only the SEC and PAC-12 are ahead in my book. Big Ten fans are not pumped about Rutgers and Maryland coming to town. Only college presidents are.

So UMass, still want into the whatever is left of the Big East?

Can Scaife save season?

I must admit I did not see this coming.

While this is a Ball State football blog Ball State basketball is my favorite sport on campus. I have never left Worthen Arena saying “Man, I wish I did not go to the game.” I can’t say the same for Scheumann Stadium.

Jauwan Scaife is still open for three.

Jauwan Scaife is still open for three.

But after the Cardinals crashed and burned a season ago and saw key players transfer I assumed the 2012-13 season would be one to forget. So much so I chose to not attend a single home game this year. Not being a student living in Muncie anymore made that an easy goal.
For most of the season it appeared to be a smart choice. In November, Ball State was getting demolished at home by the likes of Indiana State. December and January were not that much better as the Cardinals were dropping winnable MAC games. The low point being a second half disappearing act in a lost to cannon fodder Central Michigan back in January.

A home loss to Ohio on Feb. 6 caused a series of tweets that were truly embarrassing. Even the Code Red Dance seemed to be on defensive boasting about having to stay the whole game.

basketball tweet 1bb tweetbasketball tweet 2CRD tweet

The past few games though a switch has turned on. That switch being Senior guard and Muncie native Jauwan Scaife. Scaife has become the offensive weapon we thought he would be this past month starting with a 30-point outburst in a home win over MAC West leader Western Michigan. The Cardinals have won five of their last six and Scaife has been hitting his threes going 11-20 from behind the arc the past two games.

Ball State scored a big road win at Toledo Saturday bringing Ball State’s record to 13-14 (6-8 MAC). With the win the Cardinals are a lock to host a first round game of the MAC tournament. Something they were unable to do in last year’s wrecked season. A win at Western Michigan (unlikely) and a win versus Northern Illinois (take it to the bank) and Ball State will finish above .500. Even better, Ball State may slide up to a top 5 seed and grab a first round bye in the MAC tournament. This season was supposed to be a throw away to just get a new athletic director comfortable but it now has the chance to do some real positives. Who knows, if Ball State does damage in the MAC tournament Taylor may the coming back next year. Yes, I wrote this a year ago but it is not too late for Taylor to turn it around. When a team does not quit on its coach that is a great sign.

It looked like players quit on Taylor last year, partly because some thought he quit on them. I know from a source that even Scaife was upset about his role on the team last year and thought about leaving the team. That is why I am so happy to see Scaife perform the way he is right now. His freshman year Ball State fans were excited about his potential. That potential seemed to never materialize during his sophomore and junior years as Scaife lost playing time to guard Jesse Berry. Berry will probably be the face of the team next year for sure… assuming he does not transfer like his former teammates.

But for Scaife this is the happiest I have been for a Ball State athlete in a few years. It is not easy playing college ball in your hometown. College basketball is the hardest sport for an athlete to spend four years in one place because the player movement is so fluid compared to other sports. He truly has had to stick it out through some tough situations and will exit his senior year with nothing else to prove. Instead of saying “Jauwan Scaife had potential,” Ball State fans will be saying “Thank God that Jauwan Scaife kid persevered in his four years here.”

This program will more than likely be overhauled in the next few months, but because of Jauwan Scaife the 2012-2013 season is not something to be discarded just yet. Did not think I would say that three months ago. Heck, I might even drive up from Indy for the Northern Illinois game Saturday. How much are gas prices again?

Nathan Pace is a 2012 Ball State graduate and writes for the Southsider Voice newspaper.