Ball State (3-3) at UB (1-4)
3:30 p.m. at UB Stadium.
Radio: 1520 AM. Online: ESPN3.
Last time out: UB essentially was beaten by one guy, Kent State quarterback Nick Holley, who rushed for 224 yards in a 44-20 win over the Bulls. Ball State lost to a good Central Michigan team, 24-21. Ball State’s three wins are against teams that are 4-12. The Cardinals were picked for fifth out of six in the tough Mid-American Conference West.
Trending: The game pits two promising young quarterbacks. Ball State sophomore Riley Neal (No. 15) is 6-foot-6 and 217 pounds and he can move around. He’s 4-11 as a starter and he threw two fourth-quarter INTs last week. But he has a good arm and shows promise. He’s completing 59.5 percent of his passes and averaging 217 yards a game. UB’s 6-7 Tyree Jackson is averaging 145 passing yards a game. . . . Ball State might be without its starting RT Steve Bell (66). Two of the top three WRs were hurt last week – Corey Lacanaria (5) and Jordan Hogue (1) – but they were practicing this week. . . . First-year Ball State coach Mike Neu spent the past two years as QB coach for the New Orleans Saints.
Stat checks: Ball State’s defense has allowed rushers of 160, 153 and 147 yards in the last two games. The front seven is not huge. The opportunity is there for UB’s run game but not if it can’t get the Cardinals to respect the pass at least a little. . . . Why is UB a 10-point underdog? Ball State is averaging 28 ppg, UB 15.2 ppg. . . . UB must avoid a slow start, for its collective confidence. The Bulls have been outscored in the first quarter, 38-0.
Star gazing: A key for UB will be containing sophomore RB James Gilbert (34), a 5-8, 194-pounder who averages 98 yards a game and has scored eight TDs. He’s third in the MAC in rushing. WR KeVonn Mabon (16) is a big target. . . . If UB can’t get a run game going, look out. Ball State can bring the heat. It has 22 sacks. The ends play wide, which will be a challenge for UB’s tackles. Undersized DE Anthony Winbush (98) has six sacks. The other DE, Joshua Posley (57) is good, too. Ball State had five sacks vs. Northern Illinois and 11 tackles for loss last week.
At stake: This is virtually a must-win game if UB wants to have a chance at a .500 season or even a 5-7 season. As disappointing as last week’s loss was, the MAC East remains wide open. No team looks close to being dominating. However, looking ahead to how the season could play out is getting way ahead of the game. Is UB capable of playing four decent quarters in a row?
Prediction: Ball State 23, UB 17.