This is a match-up that the Ball State program has had circled on its calendar all summer. This marks the first time in BSU history they've hosted a Big Ten foe for football, let alone one of the in-state schools. It provides a chance for Coach Brady Hoke's squad to get a monumental win against an IU program that is only 2-21 in road games dating back to 2002.
That has many thinking the Cardinals could spring the upset against Terry Hoeppner's Hoosiers. After all, this is a Ball State team that easily won its opener against Eastern Michigan and also won three of its last four a year ago, including victories over MAC Division champs Northern Illinois and Akron. Indiana, meanwhile, handled Western Michigan easily in its opener, but it will arrive in Muncie with a team that's made up of plenty of youngsters who will be playing in front of a raucous Cardinal crowd.
While that might seem like a recipe for disaster for the Hoosiers, I don't see it unfolding that way. Despite the strides the Cardinals have made, they've still struggled mightily on defense. They were the MAC's worst a year ago in total defense and scoring defense, and they gave up 435 yards a week ago to Eastern Michigan. That should free up the IU offense for big night.
Offensively, Blake Powers is expected to be ready, and be throwing to a slew of wideouts who have decided size advantages over the Cardinal secondary. The ability of those IU wideouts, meanwhile, will likely force Ball State to play plenty of zone coverage, which will keep them from throwing a great deal of blitzes at Powers and a young offensive line. If Ball State does blitz – after all, the Cardinals did rank last in the MAC a year ago in sacks – Powers will have opportunities for big plays in the passing game to James Hardy, James Bailey, and possibly freshman Ray Fisher as well.
The IU ground game, meanwhile, will likely also have a chance to have a productive evening. Don't be surprised to see Josiah Sears and Bryan Payton early, a power combination that had some success last week. Once they soften up the middle of the Ball State defense, Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray could have a chance to break a big run if they can get outside.
Defensively, the Hoosiers are hoping for a repeat performance from a week ago. Indiana shut down the run against WMU, and then were opportunistic with its pass defense. Western Michigan completed 25-of-34 passes for 217 yards, but only two of those completions were for 20 yards or more (26 was the longest pass play) and Indiana picked off a pair of throws that led directly or indirectly to IU touchdowns.
If Indiana can once again avoid giving up the big play, the Hoosiers' offense will be too much for Ball State to keep up with.
HoosierNation.com Prediction: Indiana 34, Ball State 14
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