Muncie , IN - Ball State has yet to truly be tested in the Mid-American Conference.
That's likely to change as the No. 16 Cardinals begin a tough final four-game stretch featuring meetings with the other three top teams in the MAC's West Division, starting Wednesday night against visiting Northern Illinois.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Ball State –9.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Ball State –9.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Ball State (8-0, 4-0), one of six undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, has outscored its opponents 151-60 in conference play. Those opponents, however, are a combined 10-25 overall and 5-14 in the league.
Now, the Cardinals know a challenge awaits against the upper echelon of the West, including their final two games at West-leading Central Michigan - 5-0 in the MAC - and a home finale the following week versus third-place Western Michigan, which is 5-1 in the league. Ball State also plays at Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 11.
"Well (the stakes) are rising because we play all teams that are very good," Ball State coach Brady Hoke said.
Looking to win nine straight to open a season for the first time since 1965, Ball State tries for a second consecutive victory over Northern Illinois (5-3, 4-1), which has won three in a row overall and four straight against the Cardinals at Muncie, Ind.
"It's going to be a challenge for us, but we are looking forward to it. You always want to go play someone that you respect," said first-year Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, who inherited a team that went 2-10 in 2007. "I look for us to respond well when we go play Ball State. We will get their best, and hopefully we raise our level and match theirs and have a good football game."
Idle last weekend, Ball State defeated Eastern Michigan 38-16 on Oct. 25. Nate Davis was 17-for-31 for 241 yards with a two touchdowns and also caught a TD pass.
Only a junior, Davis is already the school's career passing leader with 7,700 yards and 63 touchdowns. This season, he's completing 66.7 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,058 yards and 15 TDs - four in his last two contests.
Davis is 50-for-73 for 624 yards and six TDs with no interceptions in two games versus NIU. He threw for 326 yards and two scores in Ball State's 27-21 win over the Huskies last Nov. 24.
"He's a pretty doggone good athlete overall,'' Hoke said. "He has a lot of the physical things we'd all like to have.''
Though running back MiQuale Lewis was held to 75 yards on 10 carries against Eastern Michigan to snap his streak of six straight 100-yard rushing efforts, he ranks seventh in the nation with 123.6 yards per game. He needs 11 yards for his first 1,000-yard season.
The Cardinals have played well defensively of late, allowing 23 total points in their last three games. They're allowing an average of 15.5 points this season - 13th-fewest in the nation.
Northern Illinois has been stingier, ranking ninth in the country with 13.6 PPG allowed, including 8.1 in its last six games.
The Huskies, who were also idle last weekend, won 16-13 over Bowling Green at home on Oct. 25. NIU rushed for 233 yards, marking the third straight game it's gained more than 200 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries, while fellow freshman Me'co Brown ran 20 times for 95 yards for the MAC's third-ranked rushing offense, averaging 184.2 yards per game.
Northern Illinois looks to snap a five-game losing streak against Top 25 opponents. The Huskies have not beaten a ranked team since a 19-16 victory at then-No. 21 Alabama on Sept. 20, 2003.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
N ILLINOIS is 7-3 against the spread versus BALL ST since 1992
N ILLINOIS is 7-4 straight up against BALL ST since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
N ILLINOIS is 2-0 against the spread versus BALL ST over the last 3 seasons
BALL ST is 1-1 straight up against N ILLINOIS over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at BALL ST since 1992
N ILLINOIS is 4-1 against the spread versus BALL ST since 1992
N ILLINOIS is 4-1 straight up against BALL ST since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at BALL ST over the last 3 seasons.
N ILLINOIS is 1-0 against the spread versus BALL ST over the last 3 seasons
N ILLINOIS is 1-0 straight up against BALL ST over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
No significant injuries.
(!) [WR] Dante Love is out for the season. - Neck - 09/22/08
[DE] Justin Woodard is out for the season - Leg - 10/21/08
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Posted: 11/04/08 1:20 PM