You know, I remember when gameday weeks consisted of calling another school's mascot gay, or comparing wide receivers to inanimate objects (upside down mop for the win!), or making another school's fans feel all small-like because their team was not, in fact, undefeated as mine was. The good old days, indeed.
I remember the best times, like insinuating Coach Hoke was eating up the homeless people in Muncie at an alarming rate, red checkerboard hobo napsacks and all. I remember making Native-Americans-sobbing-at-litter jokes. I remember when it was all good to be a Ball State fan. Nothing but Whitlock weight jokes and telling every other MAC fanbase to fist themselves in honor of the Cardinals. Then came December 5th.
What started as a fumble-rama against Buffalo in the MAC Championship Game culminated in a fanbase so unused to success and attention that they proceeded to have a collective coronary over things totally outside their control. Over the last 5 weeks or so, things got to fever pitch in Cardinal Nation. Head Coach Brady Hoke headed for bigger and better hobos in San Diego, Stan Parrish was promoted as head coach from his former post as Offensive Coordinator, Nate Davis may go pro or may not, Tom Collins may or may not be an idiot, Jo Ann Gora definitely sent us a form letter, the Ball State Daily News definitely used as a source, Jose Davis likes to talk, on and on and on.
Somewhere amidst all the madness the Cardinals accepted a bid to play Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl down in lovely Mobile, Alabama because contrary to some in the fanbase, it is about the team and staff and not about the administrative shitshow we got to witness. And that team, that staff, those athletes, and this game is where we find our focus for today. We're not worried about Brady. We're not worried about Nate. We're not worried about Coach Parrish. We are worried about climate change, but only because that means Al Gore still has a platform to spew his opinion from. Fuck you, penguins. We never liked you much to begin with. We're not worried about Boise State invitations, coaching staff turnover, or losing the MAC title game. We're only worried about Tulsa.
We could do a lengthy post debating the pros and the cons of each offense and defense. We could talk about intangibles and coaching, mascots and fans, tradition and honor. The fact is that all of that sounds good, and it fills column space, but the bottom line for this game is quite simple. If Ball State plays to potential, they win. If they don't, they lose. Simple as that. They are the better team.
Tulsa is a good team. They had some good wins. Laid some beatings on some people. Took a couple beatings themselves. They are a good football team, and fully capable of beating the Cardinals. They are a balanced offensive show, with equal success running and passing the football. In many respects, this is as close as two teams can get in terms of similar styles.
This Ball State team, however, is a special one. They are a balanced offensive attack like I have never seen, facing a team that isn't exactly lights out on the defensive side of the football. If they hang onto the ball, they capitalize on opportunities, and they make the big plays, they win. If they cough up the football, take field goals instead of TDs and lose the field position battle, they lose. Big.
The key to this game will rest on the defensive side of the football, and it is whether or not Ball State can slow down the Tulsa offense. Tulsa and their QB David Johnson has tossed 18 INTs this season, so the opportunities will be there to win the turnover battle. Of course, the defense was largely Brady Hoke's responsibility.
So the long and the short of it is that we here at OTP have no Earthly clue what's going to happen tonight. Ball State is just as likely to beat Tulsa by 20 as they are to lose by 20. We picked the Cardinals in our Pick'Em with Rocky Top Talk, BlackHeartGoldPants, and Clay Travis, so we'll stick with them. We guess.
Ball State 31