One Task Left
The No. 15 Cardinals - one of five undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams - clinched a share of the West with a 31-24 victory at Central Michigan on Wednesday for the school's first 11-0 start. Nate Davis threw for 175 yards and four touchdowns, including the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter, and MiQuale Lewis had a season-high 177 rushing yards as Ball State improved to 7-0 in the MAC.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Ball State –10.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Tuesday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Ball State –10.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
"It was a big win,'' said Lewis, who had 63 yards on the drive that was capped by Davis' 11-yard TD pass to Briggs Orsbon with 7:29 to play. "For us to win the MAC championship, we knew we had to come through here, through Central. Great team. Well coached. We knew we'd get their 'A' game.''
Although Ball State is ranked 17th in the Bowl Championship Series standings, representatives from the Fiesta Bowl were in attendance last week, along with those from the Motor City and International Bowls - two games that have tie-ins to MAC schools. The Cardinals can win the West outright with a victory over Western Michigan (9-2, 6-1) and play Buffalo in the MAC title game in Detroit on Dec. 5.
``Our goal has been to win the championship since we came here in 2003, so when we meet at the beginning of the year, we talk about our expectations and what investment we're going to make as a team,'' Ball State coach Brady Hoke said. ``Believe me, it's been a conversation. But I like our team because of how they care about each other and how they play for each other, and that's what we're going to do on Tuesday.''
Lewis has topped 100 yards in three straight games and a single-season school record nine overall, totaling 1,450 yards and 17 touchdowns. The junior is 169 yards shy of breaking Marcus Merriweather's single-season school mark of 1,618 established in 2002, and needs three rushing touchdowns to better the single-season Ball State record of 19 set by Mark Bornholdt in 1979.
Davis has thrown nine TD passes in his last three games after totaling eight in his previous seven. He threw for 358 yards and two TDs to rally the Cardinals past Western Michigan 27-23 on the road last Oct. 20.
The Broncos still have an outside chance to win the West, but need Central Michigan to lose at Eastern Michigan in addition to beating Ball State. They can also win the division if several tiebreakers go their way if a victory by Central Michigan creates a three-way tie.
Western Michigan was idle last week after being Toledo 27-17 on Nov. 15, its third straight win, behind three scoring passes from Tim Hiller.
"I think our kids are feeling pretty good about it," Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said of facing Ball State. "I mean, Ball State's undefeated. So I think the challenge there is pretty good."
Hiller has recorded five straight 300-yard games, and leads the MAC with 3,382 yards and 33 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 448 attempts. The junior, who redshirted due to injury in 2006 when Western Michigan last beat Ball State, was intercepted three times by the Cardinals last year.
Hiller threw five touchdown passes against Ball State on Oct. 8, 2005, but Western Michigan suffered a 60-57, four-overtime loss.
Hiller is one TD shy of matching the single-season school record of 34 set by Tim Lester in 1999.
He has a standout target in senior wide receiver Jamarko Simmons, who has 92 catches for 1,100 yards in his previous nine games. Simmons, who holds the school record with 248 catches, had nine receptions for 110 yards in last year's defeat to the Cardinals and needs seven catches to break Greg Jennings' single-season mark of 98.
``We have a lot of work to do,'' Hoke said. ``They have a tremendous offense. This is going to be a huge test for us.''
The Broncos, trying for the first 10-win season in their 102-year history, lead the series with Western Michigan 19-15.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
BALL ST is 6-4 against the spread versus W MICHIGAN since 1992
BALL ST is 8-7 straight up against W MICHIGAN since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
BALL ST is 1-1 against the spread versus W MICHIGAN over the last 3 seasons
BALL ST is 1-1 straight up against W MICHIGAN 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
BALL ST is 3-2 against the spread versus W MICHIGAN since 1992
BALL ST is 4-3 straight up against W MICHIGAN 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.
W MICHIGAN is 1-0 against the spread versus BALL ST over the last 3 seasons
W MICHIGAN 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:
[RB] Brandon West missed last game %27?%27 - Ankle - 11/15/08
[WR] Schneider Julien missed last game %27?%27 - Shoulder - 11/15/08
[WR] Jordan White out for the season - Knee - 11/01/08
[CB] David Lewis is out for the season. - Arm - 09/16/08
[CB] Londen Fryar missed last game %27?%27 - Toe - 11/15/08
[OL] Matt Lochmann is out for the season - Leg - 09/27/08
[OL] Andy Laue has left the team. - None - 08/19/08
[TE] Branden Ledbetter missed last game %27?%27 - Abdominal - 11/15/08
(!) [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: 11/25/08 1:55PM ET