Ball State (4-1) at Virginia (2-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: RSN, FSN, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Ball State 3-0, Virginia 2-1. Away Record: Ball State 1-1, Virginia 0-1. Neutral Record: Ball State 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: Ball State 2-0, Virginia 0-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: In the final non-conference game of the season for both squads, the Virginia Cavaliers play host to the Ball State Cardinals, who invade Scott Stadium on Saturday.
Although it is getting a break from its Mid-American Conference schedule, Ball State probably would rather keep league play going. The Cardinals topped Toledo, 31-24, in Muncie last Saturday to improve to 2-0 in conference action and 4-1 overall. The only loss of the season for the Cardinals was a 34-27 road loss to North Texas. It is the first time since 2008 and just the fourth time since 1978 that the Cardinals have started a season 4-1.
Conference play has not been so kind to Virginia. Although the Cavaliers have played just a single game against ACC competition, they are 0-1 following a 14-3 setback against league newcomer Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers have made a habit of trading wins and losses this season and are off to a 2-2 start, with both wins coming at home.
These teams are meeting for the first time.
En route to its 4-1 start, Ball State has been one of the best offensive teams in the MAC. The Cardinals rank second in the league in scoring (40.0 ppg) and third in total yards (472.4 ppg). In fact Ball State is one of just 26 teams in the country averaging 40 or more points per game.
The offense is heavily reliant on the passing game, as Keith Wenning has done a fine job under center. Wenning has completed 64.1 percent of his pass attempts for 1,650 yards and nine touchdowns and has been intercepted only three times. Wenning did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time against Toledo, but still completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 335 yards.
A trio of pass-catchers have been able to produce at an impressive rate . Willie Snead (35 receptions, 611 yards, four TDs) is the most dangerous of those threats. Snead leads the MAC in receiving yards and is one of just two players in the league totaling more than 100 receiving yards per game. Jamill Smith (28 receptions, 397 yards, TD) and Jordan Williams (24 receptions, 361 yards, three TDs) are in the mix as well.
Though the running game has not been as critical a part of the offense, the Cardinals still have some strong ball carriers and have actually scored the bulk of their points on the ground with 15 rushing touchdowns. Jahwan Edwards (219 yards, seven TDs) has had three touchdowns and at least 80 yards rushing in the last two games, while Horactio Banks (350 yards) already has five scores.
Defensively, Ball State is letting up 426.2 yards per game. While that total is not particularly impressive, the Cardinals have managed to limit opponents on the scoreboard, holding them to 24 points per game. That is the second best mark in the MAC, due to Ball State's ability to hold up in the red zone. Opponents have scored touchdowns on just 57 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.
Ben Ingle (46 tackles), Zack Ryan (42) and Brian Jones (40) have each reached 40 tackles in the first five games, while the trio has also combined for four turnovers, 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss.
There has been much less reason to feel optimistic for Virginia on the offensive side of the ball. The Cavaliers are scoring slightly more than 20 points per game totaling just 322.2 yards on average each week. Other than Wake Forest, no other team in the Atlantic Coast Conference is producing fewer points or yards than the Cavaliers.
The most important player for the offense is running back Kevin Parks. The 5- foot-8 tailback has not been slowed by his lack of size as he leads the team in rushing yards (294) and touchdowns (three) while tied for the team-lead in receiving yards (107). Parks was limited to just 63 all-purpose yards against Pittsburgh.
David Watford has been inconsistent at quarterback for the Cavaliers. He has thrown twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns on the campaign, completing 59.3 percent of his pass attempts for 604 yards. Watford has also been sacked seven times, including a season-high three times against Pittsburgh. Watford completed just 40.5 percent of his pass attempts in the loss.
Virginia has managed to remain competitive by playing well on defense. The Cavaliers are allowing just 299.2 yards and 22.2 points per game while totaling 13 sacks in the first four games. Though those numbers have the Cavaliers in the middle of the ACC, they are still a Top 20 defense in the country.
Sack leader Eli Harold (3.5 sacks) is one of four players to have multiple quarterback takedowns on the year, while leading tackler Anthony Harris (34 tackles) has collected a pair of interceptions.
The Cardinals impressive offensive numbers have not come against the nation's elite but they will still be able to pass for enough yards to remain competitive in this contest. However, if Virginia's front seven continues to get to the quarterback, the Cavaliers will find a way to win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 27, Ball State 23
10/02 10:38:25 ET