Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cardinal Preview: Kent State


Ball State vs. Kent State
Location: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, IN
Game Time: 7:00pm
Television: ESPN Gameplan

It's Thursday, which brings with it previews galore of this weekend's action. Here, we take a gander at Kent State, the opponent for the Cardinals on Homecoming Saturday. To call this game important would be an understatement. Sure, it's a conference game. Yes, it's step #5 toward perfection. But most important is that we'll all learn a significant amount about this year's team on Saturday.

How Ball State responds to this particular week will tell much about the intestinal fortitude of this team. The emotional win against in-state Indiana aside, simply dealing with the media attention and emotion of Dante Love's injury is an opportunity for distraction and ill-preparation. Not to mention the fact the Cardinals are 17 point favorites. On paper, the game isn't close, but reality and paper don't often intersect.

The Basics:
Ball State University Cardinals:
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 4-0 (1-0 MAC)
Last Week: W vs. Indiana 42-20

Kent State Golden Flashes:
Location: Kent, OH
Record: 1-3 (0-0 MAC)
Last Week: L vs. Louisiana Lafayette 44-27

Offense: The good news for Kent State is that this year's starter, senior Julian Edelman is healthy. After a knee injury and a broken arm last year, Edelman hopes his 2008 campaign will be a successful one. So far, Edelman has not produced any sort of break out numbers. Through 4 games, he's tossed for 488 yards and 4 TDs, but also thrown 5 INTs. A true dual-threat, Edelman is also the team's leading rusher with 304 yards and three scores. These are not eye-popping numbers by any stretch.

On the ground, when not in Edleman's hand, the Golden Flashes have in the past turned to Eugene Jarvis. But recently will look mostly to sophomore Andre Flowers, who has been getting significantly more touches than Jarvis . Flowers is not excessively fast, but at 5-11 and 200 pounds, he can take a hit and deliver one as well. The receiving corps for Kent is paced by Shawn Bayes, who has racked up 201 yards on 12 catches with 2 scores.

For Ball State this is the first game in the A.L. era (after Love). Nate Davis is still tossing the ball, and that's enough to warrant a significant advantage for BSU. Myles Trempe showed flashes of brilliance in the Indiana game, and must continue to contribute solid routes, sure hands, and an ability to block downfield for the running game. Briggs Orsbon and Daniel Ifft all look for increased touches as well. On the ground the Cardinals turn to reigning MAC West Offensive Player of the Week MiQuale Lewis, who has wildly exceeded expectations this season, racking up 529 yards and 7 TDs. The offense lost a significant playmaker in Love, but now teams have no player to key on, which might be good for this Cardinals offense.
Advantage: Overwhelming.

Defense: If you're a Kent State fan, this Ball State offense should worry you. Tremendously. In the last game against Louisiana Lafayette, the Flashes gave up 667 yards of total offense. Expect the Flashes to be better against the pass than the run, but "better" is a relative term. This is the best of both of those attacks this defense has seen all season. The defensive unit had to replace 7 starters from a 07 edition that wasn't all that bad, and in fact led the MAC in stops behind the line. However, this defense is about to enter a world of pain, Donnie.

For Ball State, expect a defense that will have plenty of mistakes to capitalize on. Edelman has a tendency to throw balls virtually up for grabs, and the Cardinal secondary should have a field day. The offensive line is young and inexperienced, and should struggle to establish dominance against BSU's front 7.
Advantage: The offenses that they're facing makes the difference.

Coaching: Coach Doug Martin is a Kentucky alum. He gets props for that. He gets props for sticking to his plan and trying to make the most of an overall crappy situation. What he doesn't get is wins. He's 15-31 in 4 years at KSU, and though injuries plagued his team last season, the Flashes finished dead last in the MAC East. Martin has a long way to go to turn Kent around, and an even longer way to go before he begins to gain his team an advantage in this category.

Intangibles: Two words: Dante. Love. No one really knows how this Cardinals team is going to respond. And there's plenty to respond to. Media attention. The fact they're undefeated. The fact that #86 isn't suiting up for the first time. The fact they've had all week to think about all those things. It could fire this team up, it could cause a hangover. The simple truth is no one really knows what to expect.
Advantage: Push

Kent State University:

Naming an animal after your mascot (Flash the Eagle) doesn't make it creative or good. Just FYI.

Ball State:

Charlie Cardinal. Avian Awesomeness.
Advantage: Simply because our mascot looks like the team name. Eagles look like eagles, not golden flashes. And I shouldn't have to have a metaphor be explained to me to get the correlation. It's too much work when you've been out drinking your face off in the Muncie sun.

Overall: I'm not sure that even with all the attention that Ball State has gotten for the wrong reasons since Saturday that Kent State has even the remotest of chances. The spread is 17, and I expect Ball State to cover and then some. Expect a huge day from MiQuale against a soft defense, a standard 275-yard day at the office for Nate Davis, and another dominating performance by both the offensive and defensive lines. Quite simply put, Ball State owns the advantages all over the field and at all of the skill positions. A sluggish first half is possible, but not probable, and a loss on Homecoming would be unbelievable. Ball State.... big.

Ball State 40
Kent State 17

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