Northern Illinois (4-1) at Ball State (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 6, 3:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scheumann Stadium (22,500) -- Muncie, Indiana. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: NIU 3-0, BSU 2-0. Away Record: NIU 1-0, BSU 1-2. Neutral Record: NIU 0-1, BSU 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 1-0, BSU 1-1. Series Record: Ball State leads, 20-17-2.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Illinois Huskies continue their reign as defending Mid-American Conference champions as they storm into Scheumann Stadium to take on the Ball State Cardinals.
NIU has been the team to beat in the MAC in recent years, winning 16 of its last 17 conference games over the past three seasons. The Huskies kicked off their 2012 MAC season last week with a 55-24 victory over Central Michigan to improve to 4-1 overall. Coach Dave Doeren, now in his second season with the red and black, enters with a 15-4 career record.
Ball State should come out hungry after suffering a heartbreaking, 45-43 loss to Kent State last week. The defeat dropped the Cardinals to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in MAC action. Despite last week's setback, BSU has already made school history by defeating two opponents from BCS conferences (Indiana and South Florida) in the same season for the first time ever.
This will be the 40th all-time meeting between these programs in a rivalry that has adopted the title of Bronze Stalk Game. BSU holds a 20-17-2 edge in the series history. The Bronze Stalk is NIU's to lose after its 41-38 victory in Dekalb last season.
The Huskies have not missed a beat since Jordan Lynch took over the starting role for the graduated Chandler Harnish. The team is averaging 444 yards and 35.6 points per game.
Lynch may be the most explosive signal caller in the nation. He leads all FBS quarterbacks in rushing with 116.4 yards per game and has already broken off impressive 73-yard and 88-yard runs for scores already this season. His passing performance in last week's win showed off his critic's favorite topic. Lynch completed just 14-of-32 attempts for 215 yards and a touchdown. His accuracy must improve as NIU ventures deeper into its MAC season.
Although Lynch is leading the team in rushing yards with 582 on 85 carries, Leighton Settle is a capable back with 378 yards and a four TDs on 76 touches. Look for the sophomore to build on his sensational career-high 152-yard and three score performance from last week.
Martel Moore is Lynch's primary target in the passing game. Moore has caught 23 passes for 379 yards and five scores this season. Tommylee Lewis and Ashford Perez have both reeled in double-digit receptions as well.
Defensively, NIU has the best rated pass defense in the conference and has allowed only three scores through the air in five games this season. Jimmie Ward is leading the team with 51 tackles and five pass break-ups.
The Cardinal offense is powered by its smash-mouth rushing attack which averages 213.6 yards on the ground per game. Jahwan Edwards ranks sixth in the MAC with an average of 94.5 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 the team's season-opening win.
Horactio Banks is complementing Edwards very well as an alternative option out of the backfield. Banks is the 13th leading rusher in the MAC with 290 yards and three touchdowns through five games.
The Cardinals may look to air it out more this week after a strong showing from field general Keith Wenning at Kent State. Wenning passed for a career- high 445 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes. He is now tied for third in school history with 43 career touchdown throws. On the season, Wenning has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,306 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Wenning has a pair of reliable targets in Willie Snead and Jamill Smith. Snead is coming off a career-high 14 reception, 216-yard game versus Kent State. He also brought in a pair of touchdown passes as well. Smith made a touchdown grab for the second straight week in last week's loss to the Golden Flashes.
Despite the overall success of the team, Ball State's defense has been unimpressive to this point. The Cardinals are allowing 485.5 yards and 35.8 points per contest. Travis Freeman (54 tackles) and Tony Martin (40 tackles) have both stood out as key players on the defensive side of the ball for BSU.
This rivalry game is expected to go down to the wire once again. Lynch and Wenning have completely different styles, but both are nearly impossible to stop when they bring their A-games. NIU's impressive record against MAC opponents could suffer as BSU aims to gain control of the Bronze Stalk.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 45, Ball State 41
10/03 10:50:14 ET