Ball State: Ranking the Opponents

Click to read more about the opponents on the Cardinals upcoming schedule. The Cardinals are set to play Miami on Thursday (Aug. 30) to open the newly renovated Scheumann Stadium.

1. Nebraska – Sept. 22 - By far and away the toughest game on the Cardinals schedule as they will travel to Lincoln for a game against a possible top 15 team. The offense returns seven starters and adds talented ASU transfer Sam Keller. The defense is lead by a talented group of linebackers. Bo Ruud is the key on that side of the ball.

2. Navy – Sept. 15 – Another tough game in a schedule chock full of them. The Cardinals will travel to Annapolis to take on the Midshipmen. Navy will return several starters @ the skill positions including quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who is as tough to stop as his name is to pronounce. Also returning is offensive weapons Reggie Campbell & Adam Ballard who help the Midshipmen's option attack. The defense is strong up front but several non starters will fill the void in the secondary.

3. Western Michigan – Oct. 20 – Another tough road test will come from a team that many are picking to win the Mid-American Conference West. This may prove to be an extremely fun game to watch as the Cardinals offense (maybe the most explosive in the MAC) will take on the Broncos defense (the toughest unit in the MAC) in a "irresistible force meets immovable object" type game. The Broncos' offense is led by RB Mark Bonds and a veteran OL which returns 4 of it's 5 starters. On defense. The Broncos return 8 starters including their entire secondary which is lead by EJ Biggers and Louis Delmas.

4. Central Michigan – Oct. 6 – Last season's MAC West champs lost a coach and some players, but one of the MAC top signal callers, Dan LeFevour, returns to head a potent Chippewa offense along with running back Ontario Sneed. New Head Coach Butch Jones takes over the reigns on a very solid passing attack. The Broncos lost some talent up front on the offense, but there is still plenty of fire power returning.

5. Toledo – Nov. 13 – Almost all of Ball State's MAC West opponents this season have a shot at capturing the conference crown, and Toledo is in that group as well. What may be the top home game on the Ball State schedule will feature three reigning All-MAC players on the Rocket offense in TE Chris Hopkins, RB Jalen Parmele and LT John Greco. Toledo is also stout on defense where there are lead by a veteran core of secondary players.

6. Miami – Aug. 30 – They may not be the highest ranked opponent on the schedule, but starting off with conference rival Miami is truly the most important game of the season for Ball State. A win not only gets them off on the good foot in conference, but will set the tone for the season and will help build on the momentum that the Cardinals started at the end of 2006. Miami, although 2-10 last season, returns a majority of their starters including talented QB Mike Kokal. Many preseason publications picked the RedHawks as a favorite in the MAC East. A lot of their hopes this season, though, rest on the legs of RB Brandon Murphy, who has been plagued by injury problems. The RedHawk defense only returns 5 starters from last season, but an infusion of young, talented players helps.

7. Illinois – Oct. 27 – Ball State fans think we have a shot. But Illinois will be ready since a loss to MAC foe Ohio last season. So, no sneaking up on the Illini. That's okay, despite the Illini's addition of talent over the past two seasons under Ron Zook, Illinois is still in the infancy stages of bringing its team back into being a viable Big Ten opponent. This may be the Cardinals best shot of capturing the elusive first victory over a "BCS" school in Ball State's storied football history. The Illini do return 17 of 22 starters and have three all-Big Ten caliber players on defense.

8. Northern Illinois – Nov. 24 – Another in a long line of important games comes as the Cardinals travel to DeKalb to face their biggest rival in the West. NIU lost a lot when Garrett Wolfe went to the NFL, but Coach Joe Novak will have the Huskies ready for the season and the Cardinals. Their will be plenty of question marks on the offensive side of the ball for the Huskies as they will be looking for replacements for not only Wolfe, but also at QB. On defense, the Huskies return some solid starters from a year ago and welcome the return of Phillip Brown at LB. Brown started as a freshman, then missed all of last season with an injury.

9. Indiana – Nov. 3 – Ball State is probably looking to avenge the 24-23 loss last season to the Hoosier in Muncie. That was a game the Cardinals gave away and caused quite a hangover for the next few games. But winning in Bloomington will be tough. Indiana returns talented QB Kellen Lewis who torched the Cardinals and found himself a starting job in last season's game. Also back on offense is WR James Hardy and RB Marcus Thigpen. The Hoosiers return 9 starters on defense which will be a welcome sight for new Head Coach and former Ball State Head Bill Lynch.

10. Eastern Michigan – Sept. 08 – Coach Jeff Genyk is looking for his Eagles to rebound from yet another disappointing season (1-11 in '06), but things may be looking up as EMU returns several starters on defense and has a solid So. QB in Andy Schmitt.

11. WKU – Oct. 13 (Homecoming) – The Hilltoppers are lead by QB David Wolke, who is a transfer from Notre Dame. Wolke sat out last season after transferring, but saw time for the Fighting Irish. The Toppers also have some Indiana connections in this game, as 5 former Hoosier preps are listed in their two-deep depth chart from preseason. Also, former Cardinal Jon Belcher will suit up as a DE for WKU.

12. Buffalo – Sept. 29 – Coach Turner Gill is still in the midst of a massive rebuilding job. The Bulls won just 2 games in the coach's first year, and some publications are calling for an 0-12 season this go around. The Bulls do return QB Drew Willy who threw of 1,391 yards in just 8 games last year.

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