2009 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 6th/Rush Offense: 98th
Pass Offense: 30th/Pass Offense: 96th
Total Offense: 8th/Total Offense: 112th
Score Offense: 11th/Score Offense: 110th
Rush Defense: 82nd/Rush Defense: 110th
Pass Defense: 51st/Pass Defense: 23rd
Total Defense: 67th/Total Defense: 79th
Score Defense: 59th /Score Defense: 59th
The Ball State Cardinals started the 2008 season with 12 consecutive victories, but are currently on a five-game losing streak, including three straight losses to start the 2009 season. The Cardinals are coming off a 24-17 loss to Army while the Auburn Tigers rallied to defeat West Virginia, 41-30.
Ball State comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium with one of the worst offenses in college football averaging 270 yards and 14 points per game. Considering how poorly the Cardinal offense has performed their defense has put up respectable numbers allowing 366 yards and 22 points per game.
Senior running back, MiQuale Lewis rushed for 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2008, but has been limited to just 141 yards on 41 carries this season. He did rush for more than 100 yards against North Texas in the season opener.
MiQuale Lewis put up big numbers last season for the Cardinals.
Kelly Page is the current starter at quarterback, but his play has been less than stellar as a freshman. He comes into the game completing only 46 percent of his passes for 4.4 yards per pass attempt. Senior quarterback, Tanner Justice saw action last Saturday, completing 64 percent of his passes for 100 yards. Lewis also leads Ball State in receptions with 11, but Torieal Gibson stepped up against Army with five receptions for 107 yards.
North Texas and Army were able to rush for more than 200 yards against the Ball State defense, which has allowed 204.3 yards rushing per game. The Ball State defense has improved each week this season allowing 512 yards in the season opener against North Texas, 322 yards against New Hampshire and 265-yards to Army.
Inside the Numbers
Last year in the GMAC Bowl the Tulsa Golden Hurricane crushed Ball State, 45-13, amassing 632 yards in total offense, including 482 yards rushing.
The last time Auburn played Ball State was in 2005 when the Tigers nearly pitched a perfect game defeating the Cardinals, 63-3. The Auburn offense had only eight possessions during the game and scored touchdowns on all eight possessions.
Ball State currently is 0-22 against teams from a BCS conference this decade. Since 1981, Auburn is 59-2-0 against non-conference opponents with a losing record with an average score of 39-10. The two losses came against Wake Forest in 1981 and Southern Mississippi in 1991.
If Auburn gains at least 400 yards against Ball State, it will tie the 1986 and 2000 Auburn offense with four consecutive 400-yard games to start the season. The 1970 offense holds the school record with five consecutive 400-yard games to begin a season.
Though the averages for some players might slip as the season progresses, the offense is currently on pace to have a 2,800-yards passer (Chris Todd), two 1,000-yard rushers (Ben Tate & Onterio McCalebb), a 1,000-yard receiver (Darvin Adams) and a fourth player with over 900-yards in total offense (Mario Fannin). The 2008 Auburn offense scored 19 touchdowns in 12 games. The 2009 offense comes into the Ball State game with 14 touchdowns through three games.
Why Auburn should win...
Auburn currently has a Top 10 offense nationally, which will face off with a Ball State defense currently ranked 79th in the nation. Auburn is ranked No. 6 in the nation in rushing and Ball State is 110th nationally in run defense.
Last week Alabama defeated North Texas, 53-7, which defeated Ball State, 20-10 during its season opener.
During his Auburn career Tate has averaged 6.2 yards per carry against opponents from a non-BCS school. In the only two meetings against Ball State, Auburn has defeated that opponent by an average score of 46-2.
Why Ball State could win...
There are no guarantees in football but it would take a miracle for Ball State to pull an upset over Auburn. It would require the Cardinals to control the tempo of the game and to win the turnover battle.
Ball State head coach Stan Parrish was the Cardinals offensive coordinator last season and was promoted to head coach in December 2008. Parrish must rebuild a Ball State team that returned six starters on offense and seven on defense. The Cardinal offense has struggled this season with the loss of quarterback, Nate Davis. The Cardinals catch Auburn at the right time with the Tigers coming off a come behind victory over West Virginia and possibly looking ahead to Tennessee.
After an emotional and physically draining mêlée with West Virginia, the Ball State game arrives at a good time with Auburn's first road game looming the following week. Though you never want to overlook any opponent, Auburn needs to utilize this game as a partial bye-week. A dominating first half against the Cardinals and subsequent mass substitution in the second half could accomplish this. It's also a prime opportunity to develop depth and experience with personnel needed to provide experience to the Auburn depth chart.
Auburn will be a heavy favorite against Ball State, but the starters still need to work on execution especially on the defensive side of the football.
I would expect a fairly vanilla approach by the Auburn offense, but would not be surprised by a new wrinkle or two to give Tennessee something to think about for the following week. Ball State defensive coordinator Doug Graber brings plenty of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional level.
If Ball State is to be competitive against Auburn, slowing down the Auburn running game will be essential. It will interesting to see how the Auburn coaching staff motivates the players to play inspired football against an opponent they are heavily favored to defeat. This might be the most challenging aspect of the game for Coach Gene Chizik.
Auburn's offense has more than lived up to the preseason hype, but the defense and special teams are still under scrutiny. Despite giving up over 500 yards to West Virginia, the Auburn defense managed to force six turnovers which were converted into 24 points.
Auburn should record its fourth victory of the season over Ball State. Since 1951 Auburn has begun a season with four consecutive victories on 15 occasions. All of those teams finished the season with a winning record, with a combined win percentage over .800. The only thing stopping Auburn from going this Saturday is Auburn. Auburn 52, Ball State 10
Around the SEC
Alabama over Arkansas
Florida over Kentucky
Georgia over Arizona State
LSU over Mississippi State
Ole Miss over South Carolina
Tennessee over Ohio
Vanderbilt over Rice