It has been four years since Ball State has played Indiana, but in the four years that led up to that last game (2008-12) the Cardinals were able to pull off three straight victories over their instate, Big 10 foes.
So the question is, can it happen a forth straight time? On paper, probably not a chance, but games aren't paid on paper, and were really are not fully aware of the capability of this Ball State football team. They are 1-0 with a solid victory over a team that went Bowling last season in Georgia State. Indiana is also 1-0, coming off a similar (34-13) victory over a similar (Florida International). Let's break it down.
Tale of the tape:
|Defending the Run||=||=|
Quarterback Play: Indiana gets the edge here based solely on game one. Hoosier QB Richard Lagow, in his first career start, was effective in throwing 240 yards and touchdown. Ball State QB Riley Neal struggled last week, especially in the first half, when he threw 2 INTs. Where Neal holds an edge is on the ground where his ability to get chunks of yardage and keep plays alive is a bonus.
Ground Game: Ball State amassed 325 yards and ground Georgia State into oblivion in the second half and wore them out. The Cardinals three RBs in James Gilbert (160 yards & 2 TD), Darian Green (93 yards and a score) and Teddy Williamson (28 yards and a TD) all operate effectively behind a surprisingly solid Offensive Line. Indiana too has a solid ground game with Devine Redding leading the way after popping off 135 in week one.
Receivers: Indiana has a deep corp of WR talent that is led by Nick Westbrook who posted 6 receptions. Aside from that, 8 different Hoosier receivers had at least one reception in a balanced attack. Ball State is led by Kevonn Mabon, the hulking 6-2 220 5th year WR, who posted 8 receptions but for only 69 yards. Aside from that, only Corey Lacanaria (4 receptions) had multiple receptions.
Defending the Run: Both defenses shut down their opponents running games. Ball State held Georgia State to just 77 yards on the game. Indiana was equally effective, holding Florida International to just 63 yards. This is a toss up statistically, so we will give it the old push.
Pass Defense: Indiana did give up 268 yards, but only allowed Florida International 51% Completion percentage and also ripped off 3 interceptions. Ball State allowed a much higher completion percentage (62.5%), but for only 195 yards. The big difference, the Cardinals claimed only 1 INT.
Specials: Rare will be a time that the Cardinals are outdone in this area. Kyle Schmidt had a 47.2 average on 4 punts and Morgan Hagee booted a 44 yard field goal. Indiana kicker Griffin Oakes missed a relative chip shot at 26 yards and punter Joseph Gedeon averaged only 36.8 yards a punt, but did pin Florida International inside the 20 three times.
Coaching: Only one game in his tenure is not enough to anoint Mike Neu with too much praise, so we will go with the veteran Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson by a nose in this one. WIlson has never beaten Ball State, but has taken a downtrodden Indiana football program to a bowl game a season ago.
Outcome: We'll just get this out of the way now, Ball State wins, 44-35. The Cardinals continue the mojo over the bigger school from the south. Again, remember, we are biased.