NCAAF:Friday News and Notes

NCAAF:Friday News and Notes

Navy at Ball State
By Brian Edwards 

After cashing an easy winner with Rice thumping SMU last Friday night, we’re ready to tackle this week’s matchup between Navy and Ball State. Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the Cardinals as 3½-point favorites, but the line is now seven or 7½ at most spots.

As for the total, LVSC sent it out at 60, but a few spots were at 59 or 59 ½ on Thursday. Navy (1-0 straight up, 0-0 against the spread) is plus 220 on the money line (risk $100 to win $220).

Ball State (1-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) opened its season with a 48-14 home win over Northeastern in a non-lined affair. Junior quarterback Nate Davis, one of the most underrated signal callers in the country, completed 21-of-24 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Senior wide receiver Dante Love had nine receptions for 171 yards and a pair of TDs. Senior TE Darius Hill had five catches for 45 yards and one TD.

Brady Hoke’s team also racked up 190 yards on the ground. Junior running back MiQuale Lewis had 11 carries for 95 yards and one TD.

Ball State’s offense is dynamic, returning all 11 starters from last year’s unit that averaged 31.5 points per game. Davis garnered second-team All-MAC honors in 2007, throwing for 3,667 yards with an outstanding 30/6 touchdown-interception ratio.

Davis has all of his favorite targets back, including the aforementioned Love and Hill. Love was a first-team All-MAC selection last year when he hauled in 100 catches for 1,398 yards and 10 TDs. Hill, another first-team All-MAC player, had 65 receptions in ’07 for 926 yards and 11 TDs. Obviously, Davis loves to look for his big (6’6”) tight end down in the red zone.

While Hoke is in his sixth season at Ball St., Navy is breaking in a new coach – Ken Niumatalolo. Although he made his coaching debut in a 35-32 loss to Utah at last season’s Poinsettia Bowl, Niumatalolo’s regular-season debut went the other way, as the Midshipmen collected a 41-13 win over Towson in a non-lined matchup.

Senior RB Shun White erupted for a school-record 348 rushing yards on just 19 totes. White found paydirt on runs of 33, 87 and 73 yards. He averaged an eye-opening 18.3 yards per carry.

Navy gave Jarod Bryant the starting nod at QB instead of Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who will miss his second straight game Friday with a hamstring injury. Bryant ran for 75 yards on 17 carries against Towson, scoring the game’s first TD on a 20-yard scamper.

Defensively, the Midshipmen have eight starters back from last season’s team that went 8-5 SU and 5-7 ATS. As for the Cardinals, they have seven starters back on defense.

When these teams met last year, Ball St. collected a 34-31 win at Navy in overtime as a seven-point underdog.

Kick-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Navy has been a big-time money maker as a road underdog since 2003, cashing tickets at an 11-2 ATS clip in such spots.

--Since 2002, Ball St. is 8-3 ATS as a home ‘chalk.’

--Everybody is sleeping on LSU and Les Miles has to love that. Going into the season, I said the Tigers were good enough to repeat at every position except the quarterback position. I’ll stick to that notion for now, but I am certainly having second thoughts. I liked what I saw out of Andrew Hatch last week. Although the stats didn’t look especially attractive, Hatch managed the game effectively and did a good job of getting the ball into his playmakers’ hands.

--Like I said all summer long, Ole Miss WR/RB Dexter McCluster is going to have a monster season. He’s a poor man’s version of Percy Harvin or Jeremy Maclin. McCluster had six carries for 64 yards and one touchdown in the Rebels’ 41-24 win over Memphis as eight-point favorites. He also had four receptions for 61 yards.

--Vanderbilt freshman WR John Cole is expected to miss eight weeks after sustaining a knee injury in last week’s 34-13 win at Miami (OH.). Cole was the prize of Vandy’s 2008 recruiting class and showed nice speed on a pair of punt returns for 23 yards against the RedHawks.

--Florida State has been mired in mediocrity for the last seven seasons mainly because of poor QB play. The 'Noles had four years of Chris(ty) "Fumble" Rix(ie) and three years of Drew Weatherford. Now they are wisely going in a different direction, naming sophomore Christian Ponder as the starter.

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What Bettors Need to Know: Navy at Ball State

Another shootout?

This game marks a rematch of last season’s 34-31 OT victory by Ball State at Annapolis. That game jumped over the 57-point total and Ball State was the surprise winner as a 7-point underdog.

Both offenses had their way in that one, with the teams combining for 1,124 total yards. Navy ran for 521 yards - the third highest total ever for a losing team in an NCAA football game.

Niumatalolo in ‘08

While key players return for both squads, one significant difference from 2007 is that first-time head coach Ken Niumatalolo now helms for Navy.

Niumatalolo has big shoes to fill. 

Previous coach Paul Johnson, now with Georgia Tech, led Navy to five consecutive bowls after having been to one in the previous 21 years.

Ball State firepower

The Cardinals return eleven starters from a 2007 offense that averaged 31.5 points and 433 yards per game.

The squad is led by QB Nate Davis, a cannon-armed blue chipper and legit NFL prospect. Davis threw for 3,667 yards with a 30-6 TD-INT ratio last season. The junior already holds the school record for TD passes and is third all-time in yardage at Ball State.

Davis has no shortage of weapons to work with. The top receiving corps in the MAC is led by all-conference senior WR Dante Love and 2007 Mackey Award semifinalist TE Darius Hill. Running back MiQuale Lewis leads a deep backfield that runs behind a seasoned offensive line.

Navy ground attack

Although the Midshipmen return only five starters on offense, their unique running attack, featuring a fullback and two slotbacks, remains difficult to defend.

In 2008 the team will be looking for its fourth straight NCAA rushing title.

Both teams stepping up in class

Ball State and Navy both opened last week with decisive wins over 1-AA squads.

Nate Davis led the Cards to a 48-14 romp over Northeastern, completing 21 of 24 for 290 yards and 3 TDs with no picks. Dante Love was the primary beneficiary with 171 receiving yards on nine receptions including one TD.

Not to be outdone, Navy beat up on Towson 41-13. With the overmatched Tiger defense focusing on FB Eric Kettani, the Middies turned to SB Shun White, who proceeded to set a single-game team record with 348 rushing yards on only 19 carries.

Navy backup QB at the helm

For the second week in a row, Navy will be without starting QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. While backup Jarod Bryant is not as dynamic, he is considered a better passer and has gained significant experience subbing for the oft-injured starter in the past.

Bryant played the entire second half last season against Ball State after Kaheaku-Enhada sprained both ankles in the first half.

The team runs a true triple-option with the explosive Kaheaku-Enhada, but Bryant is more of an inside runner who lacks the speed to get outside so that could be a concern.

Cards could be more special

With both teams explosive on offense and less distinguished on defense, special teams could make the difference.

While the Midshipmen return no specialists and look to be in transition in this area, Ball State should have the edge with All-MAC punter Chris Miller returning along with dangerous return man B.J. Hill.

Line moves lists the opening line at 7 1/2 with some Vegas books opening at 8. Early action weighted towards the dog has driven the number down to an even 7.

After opening at 58 1/2, over bettors have driven the total up to 59 1/2.

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Navy Midshipmen vs. Ball State Cardinals

- The Navy Midshipmen and the Ball State Cardinals will both be gunning for a victory on Friday when they meet at Scheumann Stadium.

Oddsmakers currently have the Cardinals listed as 7-point favorites versus the Midshipmen, while the game's total is sitting at 60½.

Team records:
Navy: 1-0 SU, 0-0 ATS
Ball State: 1-0 SU, 0-0 ATS

Navy most recently:
When playing in September are 6-4
When playing on turf are 6-4
After outgaining opponent are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 6-4

Ball State most recently:
When playing in September are 3-7
When playing on turf are 6-4
After outgaining opponent are 5-5
When playing outside the conference are 3-7

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Navy's last 5 games on the road
Navy is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games
Navy is 15-4 ATS in its last 19 games on the road
Navy is 10-3 SU in its last 13 games on the road
Ball State is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games at home

Next up:
Navy at Duke, Saturday, September 13
Ball State at Akron, Saturday, September 13

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Navy vs. Ball State

Navy is well known for its triple option and just because the previous ball coach has left does not change anything for Ken Niumatalolo as this team has had a tradition of winning of late especially as they have dominated contests between Armed Forces ballgames. After all, Niumatalolo spent a decade underneath Johnson and similar to the military as their football team, they have hired the next individual that has waited in the wings. This team does return 4 starters and note that their backfield has plenty of experience running the triple option. Remember this was an 8 win team last year, they are solid and their defensive has gotten significantly better with 8 returning starters. Heck, Navy was around 100th in the nation in defense allowing nearly 440 yards per game, but once again, they had injuries and have worked on getting better scout teams. The Ball State Cardinals of 2008, return a solid group of starters as they return 11 on offense and 8 on defense. Any team that returns 19 of the 22 players that start, typically are sound when it comes to knowing what is expected of them and their respective offense and defense. Ball State actually beat Navy by a field goal last year on the road, there is no reason that such a tight ballgame cannot happen here once again. When looking at the offense, both these teams are led by veteran quarterbacks including Ball State which has a QB that was the MAC's best passer last year. Note, the total is above 60 for a reason as there was 65 points scored last year (34-31 Ball State in OT). Navy was 4-0 to the over last year as their offense was able to put up the points but just as quickly their defense gave up the points, and with only 4 returning starters on defense, who is to say that this is not going to happen again. Ball State returns the same defense as it does last year, of course, this team gave up 50+ points to Rutgers, but did have several ballgames where they played very well at home. So, in short, what you have is two good offenses with Ball State having a clear edge on defense.

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