Ball State (4-3) at Central Michigan (2-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium (30,255) -- Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: BSU 3-1, CMU 1-2. Away Record: BSU 1-2, CMU 1-2. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, CMU 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 2-2, CMU 0-2. Series Record: Ball State leads, 22-21-1.
GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals try to make it three in a row against their Mid-American Conference rival when they invade Kelly/Shorts Stadium to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas.
Ball State walked away from last week's overtime thriller with Western Michigan with a 30-24 victory to improve to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in MAC play. The win snapped a two-game losing streak which was preceded by back-to-back wins over programs from BCS conferences (Indiana and South Florida). Coach Pete Lembo led BSU to a 6-6 finish in 2011, but the team was one of just two bowl eligible teams not to be extended an invitation. The Cardinals are playing inspired football this season to insure a postseason bid.
CMU had a decent 2-1 start to the season which included a road win over Iowa, but it since has experienced three losses in a row. The most recent disappointment came last Friday when the Chippewas were conquered, 31-13, by Navy in Mount Pleasant. Coach Dan Enos and his squad are 0-2 so far in league action after suffering setbacks at Northern Illinois (55-24) and Toledo (50-35).
The Cardinals' offense is leading the MAC with an average of 483.1 yards per game due to a balanced attack. BSU has an electric option out of the backfield in tailback Jahwan Edwards, who ranks sixth in the MAC with an average of 96.1 yards per game. The sophomore tailback's best performance came in Ball State's league opening game when he rushed for 200 yards and three scores against Eastern Michigan.
Horactio Banks complements Edwards very well as an alternative option out of the backfield. Banks is the 14th leading rusher in the MAC with 336 yards and three touchdowns through seven games.
The effectiveness of Edwards and Banks has helped Ball State evolve a steady aerial attack. Keith Wenning has passed for 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions over his last three outings. On the season, Wenning has completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 2,005 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Wenning has a pair of reliable targets in Willie Snead and Jamill Smith. Snead is 11th in the FBS and first in the MAC in receiving with 771 yards and five touchdowns on 56 receptions. Smith has 48 catches for 521 yards and three scores.
Although BSU's offense has been thriving, its defense has been unimpressive to this point overall. The Cardinals are allowing 480.3 yards and 35.4 points per contest. However, last week BSU managed to hold Western Michigan scoreless for a span of 35 minutes from the 5:01 mark of the second quarter until the Broncos' game-tying field goal on the final play of regulation.
Travis Freeman (76 tackles) and Tony Martin (58 tackles) have both stood out as key players on the defensive side of the ball for BSU. Freeman is eighth in the FBS and second in the MAC in tackles.
CMU's offense has averages of 366.7 yards and 24.8 points per contest through its first six games. Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff is the team's field general. He has passed for 1,435 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 58.6 percent completion rate. Radcliff will be looking to bounce back from last week's forgettable performance in which he was held to a season-low 139 passing yards
Junior running back Zurlon Tipton is the main threat in the Chippewas' offensive attack. He leads the team with 604 all-purpose yards and just passed 1,000-yard mark for his career. Tipton is averaging seven points per game, which is tied for 10th in the MAC rankings.
Titus Davis and Cody Wilson are both viable threats in the passing attack. Wilson has tallied a team-high of 36 receptions for 394 yards. Davis comes in with 436 yards, five catches for scores, and a four-game streak with at least one touchdown reception. Wilson has made a catch in 35 consecutive games, which is tied for the third longest active streak in the nation.
CMU is a weak defensive squad with allowed averages of 443.3 yards and 39.2 points per game. The Chippewas are especially poor against the run, which was evident as Navy gained 258 yards on the ground against them last week. Justin Cherocci leads the team with 61 total tackles.
The Chippewas have some nice pieces, but their far from completing the puzzle. Ball State needs to improve its defense, but its offense should carry it to a comfortable victory in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 38, Central Michigan 28
10/17 10:47:47 ET