BALL STATE: Five Days and Counting

Indiana (5-4/2-4) gets its fourth chance at becoming bowl eligible this weekend when it takes on Ball State. HoosierNation.com takes its first look at the Cardinals, who figure to be anything but a pushover Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium...

439.1 – total yards/game for the Ball State offense. That's a total that ranks 22nd nationally, and makes the Cardinals the most statistically productive offensive unit that IU has faced to date. Ball State is averaging 32 points/game and is doing it with balance – 163.9 rushing yards and 275.2 passing yards per outing. The Cardinals have scored at least 30 points in six of their nine games, including a season-high 40 in a 41-40 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln. While they are just 5-4, they've lost a pair of one-point games (Nebraska, Miami of Ohio) and played Illinois tough last week before falling by 11, 28-17.

2 – common foes for Ball State and Indiana. Both teams picked up wins on the road at Western Michigan, and both lost to Illinois. Ball State quarterback Nate Davis threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 27-23 win over WMU two weeks ago, and they led Illinois early in the third quarter in Champaign on Saturday before eventually falling, 28-17. Both teams struggled mightily to stop the Illinois ground game, with Indiana yielding 288 yards to Coach Ron Zook's team on the ground, while Ball State surrendered 324 in Saturday's loss. A final similarity is that each team has aspirations of playing in a bowl game. Both teams enter the game at 5-4 and in need of one more win to become bowl eligible. Ball State's trip to the postseason, though, might be more challenging. The MAC has only three guaranteed bowl spots (Motor City Bowl, GMAC Bowl and International Bowl) while the Big Ten has seven slots.

227.0 – average rushing yards Ball State has surrendered this season, which ranks 116th out of 119 Division I schools. That's good news for an IU ground game that has struggled as of late, averaging just 111.7 yards rushing/game since conference play opened. In the last two weeks Ball State has yielded a couple of huge days for opposing tailbacks – Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall ran for 189 yards last weekend, while Western Michigan's Brandon West piled up 171 the week before. In all, Ball State has allowed seven different rushers to amass at least 100 yards rushing in a game this season. Their worst effort was in a week three overtime win over Navy, when Navy piled up 521 yards on the ground in a 34-31 Cardinal win.

8 – turnovers for Ball State this season. Compare that to Indiana, which has turned it over nine times in the last two weeks and 22 times on the year. One of Ball State's strengths has been its ability to win the turnover battle. Quarterback Nate Davis has thrown only four interceptions compared to 21 touchdowns, and the Cardinals have lost only four fumbles this season. On the other side of the ball, Ball State's defense has intercepted 14 passes and recovered six fumbles, giving them a +12 turnover margin which ranks seventh nationally. Indiana used to be among the national leaders in turnover margin, but their recent miscues has dropped them to 57th nationally with a 0 margin (22 takeaways, 22 giveaways).

10 – Big Ten teams still holding out hope to become bowl eligible. Six teams have already earned the required six victories (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois), while three others have five wins (Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern) and one has four wins (Iowa). That could be bad news for Indiana, as the Big Ten only has seven guaranteed bowl spots. All four of the teams that still have work to do have legitimate chances of becoming eligible, including Iowa, which has three winnable games remaining (at Northwestern, home vs. Minnesota and Western Michigan).

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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