Ball State (3-1) at Kent State (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dix Stadium (20,500) -- Kent, Ohio. Television: ESPN Plus, ESPN 3. Home Record: BSU 2-0, KSU 1-0. Away Record: BSU 1-1, KSU 1-1. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, KSU 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 1-0, KSU 1-0. Series Record: Ball State leads, 19-6.
GAME NOTES: The early lead in the Mid-American Conference's East Division will be on the line when the Ball State Cardinals visit Dix Stadium to challenge the Kent State Golden Flashes on Saturday.
Ball State is off to a 3-1 start for the second straight season after its 31-27 home victory over South Florida of the Big East Conference last week. The win was the second in a row over a Bowl Championship Subdivision school as it defeated Indiana one game prior. The Cardinals had never beaten two teams from BCS conferences in the same year in school history. Coach Pete Lembo, now in his second season with the program, has a 9-7 record with the Cardinals.
Kent State improved to 2-1 overall last Wednesday with an impressive 23-7 victory over Buffalo in its MAC opener. The Golden Flashes opened up the season with a 41-21 victory over Towson before suffering a 47-14 defeat at Kentucky. The team is averaging 26 points per game, while surrendering an average of 25 to opponents. KSU has gained 400 yards of total offense in back- to-back games coming into this one.
Ball State and Kent State have clashed 25 times before. The Cardinals own a 19-6 lead in the all-time series which dates back to 1977. The Golden Flashes picked up a 33-14 in the last meeting in 2010 in a game which was played in Kent. Ball State has won 14 of the last 16 encounters. Both sides currently are tied for first place in the East Division with a 1-0 record.
The Cardinal offense is powered by its smash-mouth rushing attack which averages 239 yards on the ground per game. Jahwan Edwards ranks in the top 20 in the FBS with an average of 107.5 yards per game. The sophomore tailback's best performance came in Ball State's only league game when he rushed for 200 yards and three scores on Eastern Michigan in his team's season-opening win.
Horactio Banks is complementing Edwards very well as an alternative option out of the backfield. Banks is the 10th leading rusher in the MAC with 254 yards and three touchdowns through four games.
The Cardinals have a decent field general in junior QB Keith Wenning, who became only the fourth player in school history to eclipse the 5,000 career passing yard mark last week. So far this season, Wenning has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 861 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Wenning has a pair of reliable targets in Willie Snead and Jamill Smith. Snead is coming off a career-high 11 reception, 135-yard game versus South Florida. Smith eclipsed the century mark earlier this season with seven catches for 119 yards against Eastern Michigan.
Despite the overall success of the team, Ball State's defense has been unimpressive to this point. The Cardinals are allowing 492 yards and 36 points per contest. Travis Freeman (42 tackles) and Tony Martin (36 tackles) have both stood out as key players on the defensive side of the ball for BSU.
Kent State will be looking to amass over 400 yards of offense for the third game in a row against the Cardinals' suspect defense. In last week's win, the Golden Flashes were led by the one-two punch of Dri Archer and Trayion Durham, who became the first two KSU runners to eclipse the 100-yard mark in the same game since 2008. Archer gained a game-high 127 yards and a score on 14 carries, while Durham amassed 112 rushing yards.
Spencer Keith and Davis Fisher combined to pass for 165 yards last week. Keith is a game-managing QB with 381 yards on 44-of-77 passing through three games. Josh Boyle is the only player on the Flashes with double digit receptions (13) and more than 100 yards receiving (184). Boyle also has the team's lone touchdown reception.
The Flashes are not going to overpower teams offensively, but they will still be competitive in the MAC due to their strong defensive unit. The defense stepped up its play in KSU's 23-7 victory over Buffalo. The Bulls were held to 265 total offensive yards and just 113 through the air.
David Polk made two interceptions in the contest, which earned him the MAC's East Division's Defensive Player of the Week award. Luke Wollet and Luke Batton are tied for the team-lead with 25 total tackles each.
The Cardinals' rushing attack, which is the best in the conference, gives the visitors a slight edge in this one. Although Ball State's defense has been anything but reliable, it has gained valuable experience facing three opponents from BCS conferences. Kent State will need some sort of spark on the offensive side of the ball to repeat 2010's success against BSU.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 28, Kent State 24
09/26 10:41:25 ET