With their 5th victory over a Bowl Championship Series opponent on Saturday, Ball State solidified themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the national level. The Cardinals somewhat easily handled an Atlantic Coast Conference foe on their home turf for a 48-27 victory.
More importantly for the program, the victory was the first over a "big name" opponent. Sure, beating Indiana is big, especially for bragging rights within the state of Indiana. But for those outside the fan bases of each school, it was just a ho-hum victory since IU is noted as a perennial doormat in the Big Ten Conference. South Florida? Solid and exciting victory over a Big East team, but it was a team that was floundering massively with a coach on his way out the door and also not a big name squad for those in the Midwest.
Saturday was big, real big, for the Cardinal football program and the burgeoning fan base that it is trying to attract. Virginia is a sexy name for football – they have been a longstanding solid program that anyone that follows football would know plenty about. The victory also came within the footprint of recruiting that Ball State has been able to tap effectively since Head Coach Pete Lembo's arrival from Elon. A victory over Virginia can go a long way to help peak recruiting interest of those players from the Carolinas and the Southeast that follow ACC football.
But back to the original question, is it the biggest in program history? Winning on the road in a tough environment like Charlottesville, VA sure is by far a tougher challenge than winning in front of your own fans at your home stadium. And again, this is Virginia, a solid and respectable ACC football program. Sure, they are down right now, but this was still a 2-2 team that boasted one of the top (at least statistically) defenses in the nation and it was in Charlottesville – which is not an easy place for anyone to come in and win – especially a Mid American Conference team.
So yeah, I can go with it. This was a big, and game changing, victory for the Ball State football program, and even, gasp, the biggest in 90 years of Cardinal football. Ball State beat Indiana on the road in 2008 for its first victory over a BCS school, which was phenomenal at the time. Also, Ball State has knocked off a ranked Toledo team twice in Muncie over the years, but it is a conference foe, and only a mild upset. But this … this is Virginia, on the road, against a storied and powerhouse program … this easily becomes the biggest and most important victory in the program's history and most certainly a massive building block for a program on the cusp of becoming a power at the "mid major" level.