Ball State (2-0) at North Texas (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 4:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Apogee Stadium (30,850) -- Denton, Texas. Television: Fox Sports Net. Home Record: BSU 2-0, NT 1-0. Away Record: BSU 0-0, NT 0-1. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, NT 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 0-0, NT 0-0. Series Record: North Texas leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals hit the road for the first time this season as they invade Apogee Stadium for a non-conference bout with the North Texas Mean Green.
Ball State takes a 2-0 record to Denton after downing Illinois State, 51-28, and Army, 40-14, at home in Muncie in its first two games. In 2012, Pete Lembo guided the Cardinals to the Beef'O'Brady Bowl where its six-game winning streak ended with a loss to UCF. Lembo is 17-10 as Ball State's head coach including a 10-2 mark in games decided by a touchdown or less. Ball State has not been 3-0 since 2008, when it finished with a 12-0 record.
North Texas is returning home after a hard-fought 27-21 loss to Ohio University at Peden Stadium. The Mean Green overcame a 14-point halftime deficit before a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter secured the win for the Bobcats. Now in his third season as the program's head coach, Dan McCarney is 10-16 overall at North Texas. He previously held the same position at Iowa State from 1995-2006. McCarney and the Mean Green are in their inaugural season as a member of the Conference USA. They will not have another home game until Oct. 12.
This will be the second meeting in history between the Cardinals and NT. The Mean Green defeated BSU, 20-10, in the 2009 season opener for both sides. This will be the first time the Cardinals play at Apogee Stadium. They won their final four true road games of the 2012 campaign.
The Cardinals' offense is engineered by senior quarterback Keith Wenning, who passed for 325 yards and two touchdowns last week in the win over the Black Knights. The senior signal caller now has eight 300-yard passing games in his career. He has accounted for seven total touchdowns this season for the Cardinals, who scored 42 unanswered points in week one and 37 unanswered points last week.
Willie Snead is once again a key component of the offense for BSU. The junior wideout has reeled in 14 receptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Snead entered the year on the Biletnikoff Award watch list after his breakout sophomore campaign that yielded 89 receptions for a MAC-leading total of 1,148 yards and nine touchdowns. Last week, Sneed took a back seat to Jamill Smith, who made five catches for 83 yards and a score against Army.
With star tailback Jahwan Edwards out with an injury, Horactio Banks stepped in to gain 51 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries last Saturday. Edwards was unstoppable throughout the 2012 campaign as he tallied 1,410 yards and 14 touchdowns on 232 carries, but he is questionable for Saturday as he continues to recover from a concussion. Banks is a very capable backup if Edwards is held out.
BSU allowed Army's wishbone rushing attack to accumulate 388 yards on the ground last week. The Cardinals allowed 439 yards in total, but made up for it by forcing three turnovers and holding the Knights to only seven conversions of 19 third down plays. BSU's defense has a pair of promising underclassmen linebackers in redshirt freshman Zack Ryan and redshirt sophomore Ben Ingle. As a rookie, Ryan is leading the team with 18 total stops. Ingle is second in tackles with 16, including two for loss, and also picked off a pass in the season opener.
When Derek Thompson took over the starting quarterback duties at NT as a sophomore in 2010, the offense revolved around star tailback Lance Dunbar. Now a senior, Thompson has become the Mean Green's leader. He threw for a career- high 349 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-27 passing with zero interceptions against Idaho to begin the year. He wasn't able to avoid turnovers last week though, as he was picked off twice by Ohio. Thompson still had a good overall performance as he threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-29 efficiency.
Thompson's two favorite targets have been Darnell Smith and Brelan Chancellor. Both players are averaging 84 receiving yards per game and have accounted for over 59 percent of NT's receiving yards through two games. Smith is coming off a career-high nine reception performance versus the Bobcats and finished only 11 yards short of his second career 100-yard game. Chancellor is also a very dangerous weapon as a return specialist.
NT is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry and 145.5 rushing yards per game, but it has found the end zone on the ground five times already. Senior tailback Brandin Byrd was the sixth-leading rusher in the Sun Belt Conference in 2012 with 860 yards and four touchdowns on 205 attempts. He is the team's leading rusher this year with 84 yards and two scores on only 17 carries. Both Antoinne Jimmerson (75 yards, 23 attempts) and Reggie Pegram (70 yards, 22 attempts) have taken more hand-offs.
Defensively, the Mean Green look to be an improved team from a season ago. They held Idaho to just six points and limited a talented Ohio offense to only two offensive touchdowns. The Bobcats caught NT off-guard on the opening play as Tyler Tettleton connected with Chase Cochran on an 80-yard touchdown pass and later scored on a 10-yard pass play from Tettleton to tailback Ryan Boykin with 13:12 left before halftime. The Mean Green only allowed an Ohio touchdown on one of its four red zone visits.
Zach Orr, who is the son of former Washington Redskin great Terry Orr, was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week after a stellar week one. He registered double-digit stops again last week at Peden Stadium. Orr is second in the conference in total tackle with 21.
NT has a realistic chance of putting a blemish on the Cardinals' perfect record. BSU's defense relies on turnovers as it has trouble stopping both the run and the pass. Thompson threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns in 2012, but his accuracy has been significantly better for his senior campaign. Although Wenning has more proven weapons to work with than his counterpart, he will be facing a much tougher defense on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Texas 31, Ball State 27
09/11 10:33:13 ET