MAC Week 7 Lookaheads Blog
Posted Oct 9, 2008

The big storylines and overviews for all the MAC and Independent games.

MAC Storylines Blog

ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA
| M-West | Pac 10 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC

CFN Writers
ACC By Adam Kurkjian; Big East By J.P. Girouard; Big 10 By Tony Castricone; Big 12 By Sean Martin; Conference USA By Greg Vacek; Independents By Adam Nettina; MAC By Adam Nettina; Mountain West By Jim Riffel; Pac 10 By Dan Greenspan; SEC By Gabe Harris and Barrett Sallee; Sun Belt By John Martello; WAC By Jon Tavares

Toledo (1-4) at Michigan (2-3)   Noon ET
- The Rockets have come apart at the seams the last two weeks. After a thrilling 55-54 double-overtime loss to nationally-ranked Fresno State, Toledo was suddenly looking like one of the MAC’s better teams, at least on offense. But after a 45-16 thumping at the hands of Florida International and a 31-0 shutout loss to Ball State, the Rockets are struggling to find their way, particularly on offense. This is the first in a tough, five-game stretch with four on the road and the lone home game coming against MAC front-runner Central Michigan.
- After a thrilling come-from-behind win over Wisconsin, the Wolverines started last week's game with a bang, jumping out to a 14-3 lead on Illinois. But another game with a poor turnover margin (-2) and a lacking running game allowed the Illini to go over the top on Michigan's average secondary for a 45-20 win. Michigan can stop the run well and leads the nation in net punting, but it still can't move the football with any consistency. Turnovers remain a big problem. Michigan gets to tweak against Toledo before heading to Penn State to defend a nine-game winning streak against the unbeaten Nittany Lions.
Toledo: The Rockets are relative healthy coming into the game with just one key player banged up. C Buster Garrett was lost to a leg injury in the Fresno State game, but he may be ready this week.  Toledo's goose egg against Ball State last week was the first time the Rockets had been shutout by a MAC team since 1985. It was also the first time in 15 years they lost three straight at home.
Michigan: WR Martavious Odoms is questionable for this weekend's game and will be limited in practice this week. Brandon Graham is questionable with a leg infection. WR Junior Hemmingway is still recovering from mononeucleosis and will not play. RBs Kevin Grady and Carlos Brown are also questionable, while LB Austin Panter is out.
Toledo has to … force turnovers. The Wolverines are turnover-prone, and the best way to get the Rockets' struggling offense out of its current funk is to put it on a short field. After getting shut out last week by Ball State, just getting on the board will be a plus. Since 2001, the Rockets are 49-5 when scoring 30 or more and are 7-31 when under 30.
Michigan has to … become more consistent offensively and take care of the football. Michigan's not producing enough points to just give away possessions, but there are signs of the spread starting to come to life. The problem is, it seems to disappear in a hurry, it’s hardly consistent, and once it's gone, it's been tough to get back.
Keep an eye on … Michigan WR Greg Mathews. Freshman Martavious Odoms has been super productive so far this year, but since he's limited in practice and questionable for game time, Mathews needs to become the go-to target for QB Steven Threet, and Michigan's offense needs his production to open things up for the running game.
Number to know: 41 ... With a 2-3 record, Michigan is off to its worst start through five games in 41 years (1-4 in 1967), two years before the Bo Schembechler era began.
And the winner is … Michigan 37 ... Toledo 13

Eastern Michigan (2-4) at Army (1-4) 1:00 PM ET
- After starting the year 1-4 and suffering blowout losses to league foes Northern Illinois and Toledo, Jeff Genyk’s Eagles bounced back last weekend, defeating Bowling Green 24-21 on the road. In spite of a lingering shoulder injury starting quarterback Andy Schmitt was nearly flawless, throwing for 253 yards and a touchdown in the come-from-behind win.  With the meat of the MAC schedule still ahead of them, Saturday’s game against Army will provide a critical test to whether or not the Eagles have really turned a corner in Genyk’s fifth season.

-After a month of frustration and disappointment, coach Stan Brock’s Black Knights finally got their first win of the season last weekend, beating Tulane 44-13 behind a four touchdown performance from fullback Colin Mooney. After scoring just 37 points through the first four games of the season, the Black Knight offense finally came alive against the Green Wave, racking up 291 yards on the ground in the win. While the Cadets have little hope for a bowl berth, a win against the Eagles this week will go a long way to proving this program is on the way up.

Eastern Michigan: It was learned immediately before last week’s game that Eastern Michigan quarterback Kyle McMahon would be lost for the season after suffering a shoulder injury against Northern Illinois in week five, forcing head coach Jeff Genyk to go with junior Andy Schmitt- himself still recovering from a shoulder injury- last weekend. While Schmitt was effective in the start, EMU remains thin at quarterback, with tight end Ben Thayer taking reps as the team’s backup.

Army: Senior fullback Colin Mooney was honored with the team’s “Black Death” award after his 187-yard, four touchdown performance against Tulane a week ago. The award, which is given to an Army football player “only in the cases of exceptional, near perfect play,” was begun in 1988 and reinstated by head coach Stan Brock prior to the 2007 season. Mooney is the second Army football player to receive the award under Brock.

Eastern Michigan has to…Take away Mooney. The senior fullback has literally been the Army offense up to this point in 2008, rushing for 416 yards and four scores on 84 carries. While stopping the 250-lb rock won’t be an easy task for an Eastern Michigan defense ranked 99th in the country against the run, if linebacker Daniel Holtzclaw and company can force Army’s mistake-prone offense to the perimeter they’ll have  a much better chance at forcing the Black Knights into third and long situations.

Army has to…Hit Schmitt. The 6’4, 238-lb Eastern Michigan quarterback is one of the most effective dual-threat quarterbacks in the conference when he’s healthy, but injury concerns have forced him to adapt his game more to a pass-first approach. With backup Kyle McMahon still nursing an injured shoulder the Eagle’s are desperately thin at quarterback, and if Army can get to Schmitt enough times on Saturday they may be able to force Eastern’s spread option offense exclusively into the passing game.

Keep an eye on…Eastern Michigan MLB Daniel Holtzclaw. The leading tackler on Eastern Michigan and the MAC’s returning leading tackler from a season ago, Holtzclaw is a rock up the middle for the Eagles, currently averaging just less than 10 stops per game. He’s sure to be active against an Army offense which rode fullback Colin Mooney to victory last weekend, and will be the key to shutting down Army’s option attack.

The number to know…119. Average yards Army has been outgained by this season. Despite a 44-13 win over Tulane last Saturday the Black Knights were still outgained by 152 yards, relying more on four Tulane turnovers than outstanding offensive production to win the game.

And the winner is…Eastern Michigan 28…Army 24.

 Ohio (1-5) at Kent State (1-5) 2:30 PM ET
-Ohio fell to 1-5 on the season this past Saturday, falling 41-20 to Western Michigan on the road. It was another frustrating loss for coach Solich’s team, which has lost three of the last four after nearly upending Ohio State in week two. Now 0-2 in conference, the Bobcats will have to come up with a win this week to keep from falling out of the MAC East race.

- It’s been a tough first half of the season for coach Martin’s Golden Flashes, who suffered their latest setback last week in a double overtime loss to Akron. Despite outgaining the Zips by over 100 total yards, Kent State couldn’t find a way to finish, missing a critical field goal in overtime to allow Akron to escape with the win. Now in a 0-2 hole in conference play, Coach Martin will need an unprecedented run from his team to salvage the season.

Ohio: Starting defensive tackle Ernie Hodge may miss the rest of the season after suffering an ankle injury which kept him out of last week’s game. Starting offensive lineman Gary Schussler is also out indefinitely after suffering a similar ankle injury in a week five win over VMI. Starting quarterback Theo Scott continues to recover from September 5th surgery on a broken collarbone, and is not expected to be back until November at the earliest.

Kent State: Star running back Eugene Jarvis remains doubtful for yet another week of play after suffering a high ankle sprain against Delaware State in week three. Jarvis, who led the MAC in rushing last year, has been replaced by the duo of Andre Flowers and Jacquise Terry, who teamed up for 155 yards on 34 carries last weekend.

Ohio has to…Establish the running game. With Boo Jackson continuing to be a liability in the passing game the Bobcats are desperate for another source of offensive output, and should have success against Kent State’s 100th ranked rush defense if they can find someone to tote the rock. Donte Hardin has showed glimpses of big play ability over the past two weeks, now it’s just a matter of getting him enough carries to take the pressure off of Jackson.

Kent State has to…Stay committed to the run. Even with the injury to Eugene Jarvis the Golden Flashes have been able to run the ball effectively over the last several weeks, averaging 207 yards on the ground through six games. With a speedy return of Jarvis unlikely the Kent State offense will have to make due, as quarterback Julian Edelman will have make the most of his reads to keep Ohio from keying in on Kent State’s zone based offensive attack.

Keep an eye on…Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman. The director of Coach Martin’s spread offense, Edelman showed solid improvement in last weekend’s overtime loss, both rushing and throwing for over 100 yards. He’s been Kent State’s best offensive weapon since Jarvis went out with an ankle injury four weeks ago, and should find success on the ground against an Ohio defense which is giving up an average of 172 yards rushing a game this year.

The number to know…207. Average rushing yards per game for Kent State’s offense this season, the highest average in the MAC. Even without Eugene Jarvis, Kent State’s offense has moved the ball effectively on the ground over the last three weeks , relying more on quarterback Julian Edelman in the rushing game. Expect the Golden Flashes offense to have its best success of the season against an Ohio rush defense which ranks 91st in the nation.

And the winner is…Ohio 31…Kent State 24.

Western Michigan at Buffalo 3:30 PM ET
-Tim Hiller continued to light up opposing conference defenses again last week, throwing for 347 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-20 win over the Ohio Bobcats. At 3-0 in conference the Broncos are the hottest team in the MAC, with their lone loss on the season coming to Nebraska in the opener. While perfect thus far, Bill Cubit’s team can’t afford to overlook the Bulls this week, as even one conference loss could leave the door open for MAC West foe Ball State to take a commanding lead in the standings.

-The Bulls last took to the field two weeks ago, losing to two-time defending league champ Central Michigan in a 27-25 thriller. Despite their 2-3 record coach Gill’s team has looked impressive so far this season, destroying UTEP in week one while dropping close contests to the likes of Pittsburgh and Missouri. Still 1-1 in conference play, the Bulls can not only avenge the Central Michigan loss with a win this week, but can take a major step towards reaching the conference title game.

Western Michigan: Wide receiver Jordan White, who has missed each game this season after tearing cartilage in his knee during the preseason, returned to practice this week, participating in 7-on-7 drills. His status is questionable for Saturday’s game. If White returns, he gives Western Michigan’s potent passing attack (ranked 13th in the country) yet another weapon, as the 6’2 sophomore caught 19 balls for 217 yards last season.

Buffalo: Defensive lineman Ronald Hillaire continues to be hobbled by a leg injury and will not play against Western Michigan this weekend. Coach Tuner Gill said in his weekly media conference that Hillaire could miss the October 18th matchup with Army as well. Buffalo will however get back junior cornerback Kendric Hawkins, who Gill said is now 100% after sitting out the first half of the season with a stress fracture.

Western Michigan has to…Take James Starks away. The Bronco front seven has been stout thus far this season, giving up an average of only 131 yards per game on the ground. While equipped with their own high powered passing attack, Buffalo’s offense will likely show a renewed effort to involve running back James Starks in the gameplan, a week after he gained nearly 200 yards in rushing and receiving. If the Broncos can make Starks a non-factor they’ll go a long way to stifling the Bulls offense.

Buffalo has to…Stay on Serve. Buffalo’s defense has been good this year, but so has Western Michigan’s offense. Almost no one has been able to stop Tim Hiller and the Western Michigan passing game, including the likes of Big 12 member Nebraska. If Buffalo’s offense can respond and keep the game close however, it could allow the Bulls’ opportunistic defense to force a critical turnover which could end up being the difference in the game.

Keep an eye on…Buffalo running back James Starks. A 2nd team All MAC performer in 2007, Starks got off to a quick start this year with a 179 yard game against UTEP and a 97-yard rushing performance against Pittsburgh before a hand injury slowed him through weeks three and four. After coming back with a 191 total yard performance last weekend he should be back to week one form, and gives the Bulls a physical presence to attack the middle of Western Michigan’s defensive front. 

The number to know…3. Despite a 2-3 record, the Bulls are a three point favorite coming into Saturday’s game against the 5-1 Broncos, who already hold a 2-0 record in conference play. The Bulls are 1-1 in the MAC, tied for first in the MAC East. 

And the winner is…Western Michigan 35…Buffalo 24.

Temple at Central Michigan 4:00 PM ET
-In just the second start of his career quarterback Chester Stewart threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Owls to a much needed conference win over Miami University. Taking advantage of four Redhawk turnovers, Temple came out of Oxford with the 28-14 win, snapping a four game losing streak which threatened to drop the Owls to the bottom of the MAC standings. With renewed hope, Golden’s Owls will look to even their conference record this week against the two-time defending MAC champs.

-While not as dominating in the early season as some anticipated, the Chippewas have nevertheless darted out to a 3-2 record this season, including a 2-0 record in conference play. When the Chippewas last took the field on September 27th they defeated Buffalo 27-25, needing a late missed Buffalo field-goal to preserve the narrow victory. With league foes Ball State and Western Michigan looking dominant in the early going, the margin of error becomes smaller and smaller for coach Jones’ group, which will have to handle a pesky Temple team just to stay on track in the West. 

Temple: Starting quarterback Adam DiMichele continues to make progress in recovering from a shoulder injury suffered three weeks ago, traveling with the team and beginning to throw again. Coach Golden has indicated that DiMichele could return as early as an October 21st showdown with Ohio. Until then redshirt freshmen Chester Stewart will continue to start for the Owls, who are averaging only 120 yards passing a game without DiMichele.

Central Michigan: Wide reliever Bryan Anderson (1st Team All-MAC 2007) sat out the Buffalo game two weeks ago with an injured shoulder, and is questionable for Saturday’s game against Buffalo. The 6’5 junior was a key part of the Central Michigan offense through the first four games of the season, catching 20 balls for 233 yards and a touchdown. Backup wide receiver Jean Pitts started against Buffalo in Anderson’s place, and will once again get the call if Anderson can’t go this weekend.

Temple has to…Get the ball to Bruce Francis. A dynamic playmaker, the Owl wide receiver sealed the game for Coach Golden’s team last weekend, catching two second half touchdowns that proved to be too much for the Redhawks to overcome. With sub 4.4 speed he’s a threat to take the ball to the house whenever he touches the ball, and gives Temple’s otherwise vanilla offense big-play ability.

Central Michigan has to…Shore up the pass defense. The Chippewas are currently ranked 114th out of 119 FBS teams in pass efficiency defense, allowing opposing quarterbacks to hit on nearly 67% of all passes. With the offense failing to score with the authority of the 2006 or 2007 squads, Coach Jones will need better play by his defense (especially in the secondary) to stop the likes of even average conference passing attacks like Temple’s.

Keep an eye on…Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour. A preseason Heisman darkhorse by some people’s estimation, LeFevour hasn’t quite lived up to the billing of his 2007 campaign despite throwing for over 1200 yards with seven touchdowns through five games this season. Against Temple his legs may be the more important element of his game however, as he’ll have a chance to execute the zone read against the nation’s 92nd ranked rush defense.

The number to know…117. Rank of Temple’s offense (in terms of total yards) out of 119 FBS teams. Temple is averaging just 260 yards a game in total offense on the year, and nearly 18 points per game. They’ll try to get their offensive production back on track this week, as Golden’s team takes on a Central Michigan defense which is giving up an average of 30.6 points per game.

And the winner is…Central Michigan 34…Temple 17.

Miami U at Northern Illinois 4:00 PM ET
- The Redhawks fell 28-10 to Temple last week, turning the ball over four times in the loss. Plagued by offensive inconsistency all season, quarterback Daniel Raudenbough has been unable to provide a spark for the Miami offense, which currently ranks 94th in the nation. While it’s too early to call this game a must-win, the Redhawks will have to come up with a better performance this week if coach
Montgomery is to position his team back at the head of the MAC East standings.

- A week after blowing out league foe Eastern Michigan on the road, Coach Kill’s Huskies went into Knoxville last week and nearly pulled out a stunner over the Tennessee Volunteers. Holding the Vols to just 225 yards of total offense, Northern Illinois ultimately doomed their own chances, committing 90 yards worth of penalties in the narrow loss.  After a one win showing in 2007 the Huskies have proved they can compete with anyone so far this year, now its just time to show that they can win consistently in conference play.

Miami University: Linebacker Caleb Bostic was suspended for last week’s game against Temple for “detrimental” conduct to the team, according to a team spokesman. Bostic, who has been named to the Butkus award watch list for the Nation’s best linebacker, had recorded 21 tackles prior to his suspension. His status is questionable for this week, with backup linebacker Chris Shula (13 tackles last week) expected to make the start if Bostic does not play.

Northern Illinois: Quarterback Dan Nicholson, who has been starting for the Huskies ever since a week three injury sidelined week one starter Chandler Harnish, suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder against Tennessee and was forced to leave the game. Head coach Jerry Kill said that Nicholson would be evaluated throughout the week, and is currently listing the senior as questionable for Saturday’s game with Miami. Backup DeMarcus Grady led the NIU offense for the second half against Tennessee, with the more mobile Gady rushing for a team high 47 yards on 15 carries.

Miami University has to…Get consistent quarterback play. It’s been a rotating door between Daniel Raudabough and Clay Belton through the early part of the season, with neither showing the ability to give the offense a much-needed spark. Raudabough was ineffective during the first half against Temple, while Belton lead the offense on two scoring drives before throwing a costly interception. With a talented defense behind them, one or the other quarterback has to step up soon to keep Miami’s bowl hopes alive.

Northern Illinois has to…Get into the Miami backfield. The Huskie front four has been as good as they come in the MAC so far this year, holding opponents to just 108 yards rushing per contest while sacking opposing quarterbacks nearly twice a game. Led by All-everything defensive end Larry English, this group has the potential to rattle an already struggling Miami quarterback tandem on Saturday.

Keep an eye on…Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English. In a performance against Tennessee last weekend which head coach Kill called “more than valiant,” English was a one-man wrecking crew, notching up two and a half sacks in the 13-9 loss, also forcing a fumble in the game. A candidate for the for the Bronko Nagurski award, English is one of the premier rush ends for in the entire country, and will be a factor against a Miami University offensive line which is giving up nearly two sacks a game.

The number to know…2.2. average yards per carry allowed by the Northern Illinois defense to Tennessee last weekend. The Vols rushed for a dismal 69 yards on 32 carries a week ago, unable to penetrate a stout Huskie defense which is giving up just over 108 yards a game on the ground this year (30th  in the country.)

And the winner is…Northern Illinois 14…Miami University 13.

Bowling Green at Akron 6:00 PM ET
- A week after destroying Wyoming 45-16 on the road Bowling Green returned home last weekend, only to fall to what was a one win Eastern Michigan team by a final score of 24-21. The Eagles have defeated Pittsburgh and Wyoming in convincing fashion through the first half of the season, but have been less than impressive in losses to Minnesota, Ball State, and Eastern Michigan. With a loss last weekend to one of the worst team’s in conference the Eagles will have to win against one of the better teams in the MAC East this week to avoid from falling in an 0-2 hole in MAC play.

-Akron overcome three Chris Jacquemain interceptions, a 413 to 301 total yard deficit, and a late Kent State comeback attempt to defeat the Golden Flashes 30-27 in two overtimes this past Saturday. It’s been an up and down ride for the Zips thus far, who stand at 3-3 through the first half of the season. Now with the toughest part of the schedule behind them, Akron will have the opportunity to take a commanding lead in the MAC East with a win on Saturday.

Akron: A week after suffering a scary neck injury in week five, starting running back Andrew Johnson sat out the game against Kent State last week. He is doubtful for this week’s matchup against Bowling Green, with senior Dennis Kennedy expected to get the start. Kennedy was largely ineffective a week ago, rushing for only 23 on 15 carries.

Bowling Green: It didn’t take long for the critics to question head coach Gregg Brandon’s job of getting his team ready to play in the Falcons’ 24-21 loss to Eastern Michigan this past Saturday, although the 6th year man was defiant in defending his team’s loss to a seemingly lesser Eagle team. Saying that close games were part of playing the MAC, Brandon said he hopes the loss will provide his team with a positive learning experience.

Bowling Green has to…Establish the running game. It hasn’t been easy with the success the Falcon’s have had in the passing game and with injuries to piling up at the running back position, but against the nation’s 112th ranked rush defense this week the Falcons have to show a commitment to running the football. If Bowling Green can first establish 6’2 running back Anthony Tuner going inside, then quarterback Tyler Sheehan should be able to pick apart the Akron secondary as the game moves along.

Akron has to…Be more physical in the run game. Like the Falcons the Zips have had a tough time establishing the running game of their offense through the early part of the season, with coach Brookheart saying he was “extremely” disappointing in his team’s ability o manage just 58 yards on 29 attempts last week against Kent State. If the Zips can reestablish their running game after last weekend’s disaster, they’ll find it much easier to for Chris Jacquemain to spread the ball to the playmakers in the passing game.

Keep an eye on…Akron QB Chris Jacquemain. The key to Akron’s success or failure on offense, Jacquemain has orchestrated the Zip spread attack with mixed results thus far. While third in the MAC in passing, his nine interceptions to only ten touchdowns hurt the Zips in losses against Ball State and Cincinnati. If he can keep from turning the ball over he has more than enough ability to distribute the ball effectively to his wideouts, giving the Zips a decided advantage in the passing game.

The number to know…65.8%. Career winning percentage of Falcon head coach Gregg Brandon against MAC conference schools. Brandon is 27-14 since coming to Bowling Green six years ago, better than any other current MAC head coach. Bowling Green is just 1-2 against Akron under Brandon however, defeating the Zips 44-20 in last year’s matchup.

And the winner is…Akron 31…Bowling Green…30 

Ball State (6-0) at Western Kentucky (2-4) 7:00 PM ET
-The Cardinals played arguably their most complete game of the season last weekend, holding the Toledo Rockets to just 157 total yards in the 31-0 shutout win. The win made Ball State bowl eligible for the second consecutive year, giving the Cardinals and their high powered offense a perfect 3-0 record in conference play. With an uphill battle for respect from the pollsters ahead of them, the Cardinals must continue their dominance this weekend to keep their BCS bowl hopes alive.

-The Hilltoppers fell to Virginia Tech 27-13 last weekend, falling behind 27-3 by the third quarter before fighting back late in the game under the direction of former Notre Dame transfer David Wolke. The Hilltoppers have managed to do little against FBS competition this year, being outscored 113-23 by FBS teams through the first half of the season while managing wins against lowly FCS members Murray State and Eastern Kentucky. With FBS opponents from here on out, Saturday’s game against Ball State should be a good indictor of whether or not this program can have success as they complete their transition into the Sun Belt.

Ball State: The Cardinals entered the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in school history this week, coming in a 25th after their 31-0 victory over Toledo in week six. The Cardinals received 76 votes in the USA today poll, good for 29th in the country. While proud of his team’s accomplishments up to this point, head coach Brady Hoke won’t let the latest ranking distract his club, saying his team has a lot of work to do before getting into the “real teeth” of the schedule, which he says starts this Saturday against the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky: Looking for a spark on offense last Saturday against Virginia Tech, head coach David Elson turned to a dual quarterback rotation which featured former Notre Dame transfer David Wolke and converted freshmen running back Dexter Taylor. While Elson acknowledged that Wolke remains the team’s starter for this week’s game against Ball State, he also said he plans on using the versatile and athletic Taylor to run a number of option packages against the Cardinals. Taylor, who was an option quarterback in high school, ran for 96 yards on 14 carries against Virginia Tech a week ago.

Ball State has to…Avoid being one dimensional on offense. Balance is the key word for the Cardinals, who come into the game ranked 11th in total offense in the country at 472 yards per game, averaging nearly 200 yards per contest on the ground while just over 278 yards a game through the air. With plenty of playmakers at both the wide receiver and running back positions the Cardinals have more than enough talent to exploit Western Kentucky’s defense, now its just a matter of getting everyone involved and avoiding predictability.

Western Kentucky has to…Stop MiQuale Lewis. Its pick your poison against the Ball State offense, which in the absence of Dante Love has relied heavily on the shifty tailback to carry the team. While Nate Davis still has a plethora of wideouts to throw to, the junior running back has rushed for over 100 yards in each game this season, notching up twelve touchdowns on the year. If the Hilltoppers can shut down Lewis, they’ll have a much better chance of slowing down the conference’s best offense.

Keep an eye on…Ball State safety Sean Baker. Perhaps the best defensive back in the country who nobody has heard of, Baker currently leads the Cardinals in tackles (44) and interceptions (4.) An athletic player who also excels in run support, he’ll be instrumental in defending a variable Eastern Kentucky offense which will try to spread the Ball State defense out.

The number to know…14. Net rushing yards allowed by Ball State’s defense against 19 Toledo carries last weekend, good for a .73 yard per carry average. Ball State recorded six tackles for a loss in the win, showing significant improvement along the line of scrimmage after giving up 346 yards on the ground to Navy in week two and 256 yards to Indiana in week four.

And the winner is…Ball State 48…Western Kentucky 17