According to First Year Ball State Head Coach Mike Neu, "the honeymoon is officially over".
Seven months of recruiting, practicing and shaking hands with Cardinal faithful, its time for the rubber to hit the road. Neu's first game is here, it is now. The Cardinals head south to take on Georgia State Friday night, not only with hopes of starting the Neu tenure off right, but also exacting a bit of revenge over the Panthers who toppled Ball State in Muncie last season.
Tale of the tape:
|Defending the Run||=||=|
Quarterback Play: Ball State gets the edge here because young, but talented returning starter Riley Neal returns as the starter. On the flip side, Georgia State appears to still be up in the air for a starter heading into the game. Either R-Fr Aaron Winchester or R-Jr Conner Manning could be taking snaps, or both.
Ground Game: Since this is the first game of the season, all we have to go on is last season's stats. With that said, the edge goes to Ball State, who returns the starting RB tandem of Darian Green and James Gilbert and their combined 1,300+ yards. Georgia State returns their top rusher from last season, but Jr. Glenn Smith ran for only 356 yards.
Receivers: The edge goes to Georgia State as the Panthers return stud tandem of So. Penny Hart and Sr. Robert Davis. Hart amassed 71 receptions and 1099 yards while Davis chipped in with 61 catches for 980 yards. That more than tops the Cardinals solid, but not as solid, tandem of 5th Sr Kevonn Mabon and Jr Corey Lacanaria.
Defending the Run: Both defenses struggled last season to stop the run. Georgia State might have fared better as a unit, but they need to replace their top two tacklers from a season ago. Ball State, on the other hand, welcomes back plenty of starters from their defensive unit, but struggled against the run a season ago.
Pass Defense: Georgia State was solid against the pass last season, giving up under 3,000 yards and picking of 15 passes. Ball State was ranked at the bottom of the pass-happy Mid-American Conference, they welcome in some new talent and a new DC (Tim Daoust) and DB Coach (Chevis Jackson). Still the advantage, until proven otherwise goes to Georgia State.
Specials: Ball State welcomes back both their Punter - Kyle Schmidt and Kicker - Morgan Hagee. Schmidt, the master of pinning opponents inside the 20, only averaged 39 yards a punt. Hagee went 16 of 21 and 31 of 32 on PATs as a true freshman. Georgia State is looking at replacing the strong legged Will Lutz, who did both kicking and punting duties last season. Sr. Rogier ten Lohuis will be expected to do the kicking duties. R-Fr Brandon Wright will be punting - neither has much, if any experience
Coaching: Cardinal faithful have had nothing but positive feelings towards the return of former QB Mike Neu, but he hasn't been a head coach for a single game at Ball State, or the collegiate level for that matter. Trent Miles, Georgia State's head coach, has been at the helm of two programs that he has taken from the bottom and molded them into a solid program. Edge totally to Miles on this one ... for now.
Outcome: Hey, we are bias, this is the Ball State Insider after all, but we are looking for a positive outcome to the #NeuEra, Cardinals win 45-28.