2008 CFN Ball State Preview
Ball State QB Nate Davis
Ball State QB Nate Davis
Posted Apr 18, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Ball State Cardinals

Ball State Cardinals

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 Ball State Preview | 2008 Ball State Offense
- 2008 Ball State Defense | 2008 Ball State Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Ball State Preview | 2006 CFN Ball State Preview 

There was a stretch in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Ball State became a solid MAC power. It cranked out winning seasons, was in the hunt for MAC titles, winning three from 1989 to 1996, and went to three bowl games. And then the bottom dropped out.

Head coach: Brady Hoke
6th year: 22-37
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 17, Def. 20, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 14
Ten Best Cardinal Players
1. QB Nate Davis, Jr.
2. TE Darius Hill, Sr.
3. P Chris Miller, Sr.
4. WR Dante Love, Sr.
5. OT Robert Brewster, Sr.
6. LB Bryant Haines, Sr.
7. DE Brandon Crawford, Jr.
8. CB B.J. Hill, Sr.
9. CB Trey Lewis, Sr.
10. RB MiQuale Lewis, Jr. 

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 28 Northeastern
Sept. 5 Navy 
Sept. 13 at Akron
Sept. 20 at Indiana
Sept. 27 Kent State
Oct. 4 at Toledo
Oct. 11 at Western Kentucky
Oct. 25 Eastern Michigan
Nov. 5 Northern Illinois
Nov. 11 at Miami Univ.
Nov. 19 at Central Michigan
Nov. 25 Western Michigan

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 7-6

Aug. 30 Miami Univ. L 14-13
Sept. 8 at East Mich W 38-16
Sept. 15 at Navy W 34-31 OT
Sept. 22 at Nebraska L 41-40
Sept. 29
Buffalo W 49-14
Oct. 6 Central Mich L 58-38
Oct. 13 W Kentucky W 35-12
Oct. 20 at West Mich W 27-23
Oct. 27 at Illinois L 28-17
Nov. 3 at Indiana L 38-20
Nov. 13
Toledo W 41-20
Nov. 24 at No Illinois W 27-21
International Bowl
Jan. 5 Rutgers L 52-30

With ten seasons in a row without a winning campaign, won just one game between 1998 and 1999, and always seemed to come up with a clunker just when a big performance was needed.

It's amazing what a little bit of talent can do.

Some major programs don't get more than a few players taken in a given draft, but Ball State has seven legitimate pro prospects (QB Nate Davis, TE Darius Hill, P Chris Miller, WR Dante Love, OT Robert Brewster, LB Robert Brewster and DE Brandon Crawford) and a few others, like corner B.J. Hill, good enough to potentially see time in an NFL camp. This group led the way to a 7-6 season and an International Bowl appearance against Rutgers, and now they'll form a base for a veteran team that should be in the hunt for the program's biggest season since 1996.

It's not like there aren't several problems. The run defense has been non-existent over the past few years, and it should struggle this season thanks to some woefully undersized tackles. The secondary, while promising, has little safety depth and needs to prevent the big play, and there's no power running game whatsoever. Even so, because of the stars at the top, Ball State will be in the thick of the MAC title chase.

If nothing else, the offense should be able to bomb its way to wins with Davis, Love and Hill forming one of the nation's most efficient passing attacks, while there should be more from the running game with three very small, but extremely quick backs to work around. The defense won't be a brick wall, but it'll be full of veterans.

Enjoy it now, because almost all the stars will be gone next year, including Davis, if he chooses to leave early. It should be a fun ride before the rebuilding has to be done.

What to watch for on offense: Davis to be even better. With all his weapons back, a strong line to operate behind, and the emergence of Daniel Ifft as a new dangerous target, Davis should improve on his tremendous 2007 numbers. 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns aren't unattainable goals (he threw for 3,667 yards and 30 scores last season).

What to watch for on defense: More pressure into the backfield. That was the goal going into last year and the Cardinals stunk at getting to the quarterback for yet another season. Crawford will do his part at one end, but as a whole, the defense has to do far more after struggling to come up with big plays behind the line while failing to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. The defense will give up several big plays, but it'll have to make more of its own.

The team will be far better if … the run defense shows up. The stats are a bit skewed after allowing 521 yards and four touchdowns to Navy, but that was made up for later by holding Northern Illinois to -1 yards on the ground. More than anything else, the Cardinals couldn't handle the spread. Central Michigan (298 yards) and Illinois (324) rolled at will, but teams with good ground games and good backs, like Rutgers and Toledo, motored well, too.

The Schedule:
The Cardinals have the rare MAC non-conference schedule that's completely winnable. Consider it a major disappointment if they can't beat Northeastern, Navy and at Western Kentucky, and with a high-powered passing game, there's a puncher's chance of winning at Indiana. The MAC slate is brutal with games against, arguably, the league's three best teams (outside of BSU): Toledo, Miami and Central Michigan. Oh yeah, and all three games are on the road with the battles with the RedHawks and Chippewas coming in back-to-back weeks in November. On the plus side there are two off weeks in the middle of the season to refresh and rejuvenate before the nasty finishing kick.

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Nate Davis. While the 57% completion percentage could use a boost, Davis is as productive and efficient as any quarterback the MAC has seen for a while. He's going to spread the ball around well to all his weapons and he's going to lead a passing attack that can crank out 300 yards against just about anyone.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Bryant Haines. Extremely smart, very tough, and with great range, Haines made 83 tackles in a breakout freshman season, hurt his knee and made just 49 stops as a sophomore, and then came back roaring with 125 tackles with nine tackles for loss as a second-team All-MAC performer. He's still bulking up, and should end up at about 230 on the weakside, and he should be one of the league's best all-around linebackers again.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DT Drew Duffin and sophomore NT Rene Perry. Duffin is a mere 255 pounds and Perry is just 271, but these two will have to hold tough for the nation's 106th best run defense to improve. These two try hard and will be active, but they can't get gouged up the middle by the power teams.

The season will be a success if ... the Cardinals win the MAC title. This is a once-in-a-generation team for a program like Ball State. You don't get this many talented seniors, and a quarterback like Davis, all that often. Anything less than a title will be a major disappointment.

Key game: Nov. 19 at Central Michigan. It might be a loaded year for the conference, but Ball State vs. CMU might as well be the MAC Championship. There will be other major MAC games along the way, and a nasty showdown against Western Michigan to close things out, but the showdown against the Chippewas will likely be a must-win to have any shot of winning the West.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 5 – Ball State 4.1
- Fumbles: Ball State 19 (lost 5) – Opponents 15 (lost 9)
- Interceptions thrown: Opponents 19 – Ball State 5


Related Stories
2008 Ball State Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 18, 2008
2008 Ball State Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 18, 2008
Class of '07 to help Ball State defense
 -by BallStateInsider.com  Apr 14, 2008

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