Saturday NCAAF Game Previews
Saturday NCAAF Game Previews
PERCEPTION vs REALITY
Ball State at Indiana
Perception - Ball State is off to a 3-0 start, and the Cardinals are flying high. Led by All-MAC quarterback Nate Davis and the return of healthy running back MiQuale Lewis, BSU has functioned at a high level early on. Ball State was just one of seven teams to return all five offensive linemen, and with 11 starters returned on offense the continuity and consistency has been on target since week one. The Cardinals also feature another weapon in three-time All-MAC punter Chris Miller. Ball State is expected to roll up yards and scores again this week against an Indiana team pegged for the bottom-tier of the Big Ten. The MAC has made some good showings through the opening weeks, and Ball State is expected to have a real shot to knock off Indiana as a small underdog. The Hoosiers seem ill-prepared for Ball State’s offensive weaponry as Indiana has played a pair of weak opponents to open the season.
Reality - Ball State’s offense can be explosive, but the defense is still a concern. The Cardinals have allowed 5.0 yards-per-rush each of the past three seasons and were gouged for over 200 ypg rushing last year. They allowed both Navy and Akron to roll up over 400 yards of offense the past two weeks, and Indiana is the strongest opponent on Ball State’s schedule. The Cardinals allowed nearly 500 yards offense to Indiana last season in a 38-20 loss in Bloomington, and dual-threat quarterback Kellen Lewis and the balanced Hoosiers’ attack should carve through the Cardinals defense once again. Indiana also has its own special teams weapon in senior kicker Austin Starr. While Indiana has faced a pair of sub-par teams thus far, the defense has taken a big step forward and features a stronger, veteran linebacking group and more overall speed. The defensive front should apply pressure on Ball State’s quarterback and backfield, as Indiana’s defensive front is led by first-team All-Big Ten lineman Greg Middleton, who led the nation in sacks last season (16). Former Ball State coach Bill Lynch directed Indiana to a bowl game in his first season as Hoosiers head coach last year, and he sees signs that the IU defense will be much improved after allowing every I-A opponent to score 20 or more points last year. The scheduling situation provides Indiana a solid edge, coming off a bye with an extra week of preparation while Ball State is between conference games having just faced a solid MAC passing attack last week in taking out Akron on the road. The Cardinals have a homecoming date with Kent State on deck, and Ball State also fits a 67% system against game four undefeated underdogs that were bowl bound last season. Ball State’s offense gets plenty of accolades, but the defense will be its downfall in this matchup.