BALL STATE: 3 Days and Counting

What concerns should the Toledo Rockets (2-2) have in mind as they move closer to their match up in Muncie, Ind., with Ball State Cardinals (0-4). Just a few short evenings away from kick-off, Rocket Digest examines these problem areas as Toledo looks to add another one in the win column.

This Saturday the Toledo Rockets (2-2) open Mid-American Conference action with a road trip to Muncie, Ind., to take on the defending MAC West Champion Cardinals of Ball State (0-4). Despite the Cardinals lackluster record to start the season, Muncie has never been an easy place for the Rockets to win. What three concerns should the Midnight Blue & Gold faithful be aware of heading into this weekend.

1. Scheumann Stadium
Despite the overall success that the Toledo Rockets have had since their first head-to-head match up with the Cardinals in 1975, and the Rockets have been successful with 22 winning seasons over that 33 year time span, Toledo has always struggled against Ball State in Muncie, Ind. At Scheumann Stadium, the Toledo Rockets have compiled a far from distinguished record of 6-11, and that's despite the fact that in those losing seasons the Rockets have still compiled an impressive 67-58 record.

In recent seasons it's become even more difficult to steal a road win from Ball State. Ball State's attendance numbers have risen dramatically as the team reached levels of success previously unparalleled in Muncie. Ball State's slow start to the season has certainly diminished some of the local excitement surrounding Ball State football, Ticketmaster still has seats available for Saturday's game, but getting the crowd out of the game early will be key to leaving Muncie with a 3-2 record.

2. Field Position Battle
It's tough to win in the game of football without controlling the field of battle. One of the most often overlooked aspects of the game we all know and love is the field position battle. Despite the fact the Rockets held serve with a 2-2 non-conference record, the field position battle is one the Rockets have struggled with this season.

Toledo is ranked No. 94 and No. 95 in the nation in punt and kick-off returns, a pair of areas vital to the field position game, and even worse in net punting average (UT's net punt average of just 27.29 yards per punt is dead last in the Bowl Subdivision). Ball State's return teams are right on par with the Toledo Rockets, but, in the punting game, the Cardinals average a net punt of 40.19 yards, good for 15th in the NCAA.

Because this indicates the field may get longer and longer for the Toledo Rockets as the game wears on, turnovers and taking advantage of red zone possessions may be the key to a Rocket victory.

3. Overconfidence
Toledo is coming off its first road win over the season last week, an impressive win over an FIU team that shocked the Rockets at the Glass Bowl last season. A 2-2 record should give the Midnight Blue & Gold plenty of confidence heading into MAC play, but, the question is, will they have too much confidence going into Muncie, Ind., to meet the Ball State Cardinals.

Ball State has a less then impressive 0-4 record. Since dropping a pair of games the Cardinals probably should have won to start the season, the Cardinals game against Auburn indicates that the team just may be beginning to settle in under new coach Stan Parrish. Quarterback Kelly Page should be growing more and more comfortable with each snap of experience, and the Rockets are sure to get a hungry Ball State team that wants to open MAC action on the right foot.

Coming Up
On Monday – 5 Numbers to Note
On Tuesday– 4 Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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