Ball State (1-5) at Central Michigan (4-3) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium (45,000) — Mount Pleasant,
Michigan. Television: Home Record: Ball State 1-2, Central Michigan
2-1. Away Record: Ball State 0-3, Central Michigan 2-2. Neutral Record: Ball
State 0-0, Central Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: Ball State 0-2, Central
Michigan 2-1. Series Record: Ball State leads, 23-22-1.

GAME NOTES: Following a season-opening win over Colgate, the Ball State
Cardinals have dropped five consecutive contests, and will attempt to put an
end to that streak when they travel to face the Central Michigan Chippewas in
Mid-American Conference play at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Saturday.

Ball State returned home to Muncie, Indiana, last weekend for the first time
since mid-September, and was defeated by Western Michigan, 42-38, in a
contentious bout. Ball State has lost its last five contests, including a
27-20 defeat at the hands of FCS program Indiana State last month.

Central Michigan is trending in the other direction, having won its last two
games – both in MAC play. The Chippewas, who are 2-1 in conference play this
season, are currently second in the conference’s West Division behind Toledo

The all-time series between these long-time conference rivals is about as even
as it gets, although a Central Michigan win this weekend would knot things up.
The Cardinals lead the series by a single game, 23-22-1.

Ball State, like so many other teams this season, found it hard to contain
Western Michigan’s strong running game, led by freshman back Jarvion Franklin.
But the Cardinals did a great job at least keeping pace with the Broncos in
the scoring department, and had 471 offensive yards compared to Western
Michigan’s 498. Quarterback Jack Milas performed well in the loss, passing for
326 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.

Milas was filling in for Ozzie Mann under center, and played almost as well as
the missing quarterback has all season long. Mann has six touchdown passes in
five games played, while Milas tossed four scores in his only action this
year. Receivers KeVonn Mabon and Jordan Williams (three touchdown receptions
each) will be ready for whichever quarterback is given the starting nod
against CMU.

Ball State’s top running back, Jahwan Edwards, has been relatively
underwhelming for a squad that has been, well, underwhelming. Edwards rushed
for 77 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against Western Michigan, and has
five scores and 609 yards this season in six games played. The preseason All-
MAC running back needs to help get the offense, which averages 24.7 ppg, back
on track.

The Ball State defense has come up just short enough over the weeks to keep
wins out of the team’s reach. The Cardinals are allowing 27.2 ppg and 414 ypg
to opponents, but haven’t limited a team to fewer than 27 points since the
Cardinals’ Week 2 matchup against Iowa. Stopping the run has been an issue for
Ball State this season, with 199.7 ypg and 12 touchdowns for opponents all
coming on the ground.

Linebacker Ben Ingle (team-leading 60 tackles) has been consistent for the
Cardinals, but the senior needs help. As a unit, the Ball State defense has
registered just 21 tackles for loss and four sacks against opponents in six
games. With a lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the team has
simultaneously recorded few turnovers. Ball State’s players have a combined
two interceptions and five fumble recoveries. CMU quarterback Cooper Rush has
been known to turn the ball over, which should give the Cardinals some hope on
the defensive side.

Central Michigan had little trouble taking down last year’s conference
champion Northern Illinois over the weekend. The Chippewas gained 552 total
yards of offense and racked up 30 first downs in the lopsided 34-17 victory.
CMU was once again proficient in the run game, gaining 283 yards on the ground
largely thanks to star running back Thomas Rawls. Rawls finished the game with
270 rushing yards (third-most in a single game this season) and two touchdowns
on 40 carries.

Rawls missed a few games due to injury this season, but since coming back has
regained the trust of the offense. Rawls has 840 rushing yards this season
with nine rushing scores, and is averaging 168 ypg. The only other player on
Central Michigan with a rushing touchdown is Martez Walker. In seven games,
the Chippewas are averaging 150.9 rushing ypg.

The offense as a whole is scoring 23 ppg and gaining 365 offensive ypg
combined. Rush, who started last season under center, has been improving with
each game. Against Northern Illinois, Rush completed 20 passes for 269 yards
and two touchdowns with an interception. He sports a 10-4 touchdown to
interception ratio this year with a completion percentage of 64.4. Top
receivers Jesse Kroll and Titus Davis provide Rush with a very solid safety

The Chippewas played some tough competition earlier in the year, and were able
to take down teams like Chattanooga, Purdue and then Northern Illinois last
weekend (which went unbeaten for a majority of the season in 2013). The team’s
defense has performed well this season, limiting teams to 23.7 ppg and 355.1
total offensive ypg. But a 40 percent third-down conversion rate allowed isn’t
exactly ideal for Central Michigan.

Linebacker Justin Cherocci (71 tackles) has continued to add to his impressive
stat line this season. He’ll need to be vigil against Ball State, as Edwards
could be a large part of the team’s gameplan. Defensive backs Tony Annese and
Brandon Greer have combined to register five of the team’s nine interceptions
this season, and Joe Ostman and Blake Serpa top lead the squad with two sacks

Central Michigan has all the pieces coming together to make a run in the
conference, and looking ahead, the team’s schedule isn’t all that threatening.
The Chippewas could start to knock teams off with a strong offensive effort
led by Rawls and Rush. Ball State has done well to stick with teams in terms
of scoring, but going on the road to face a hot CMU program serves as a tough
mountain to climb for the team’s first win since Week 1.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Central Michigan 30, Ball State 23