Ball State (5-3) at Army (1-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Michie Stadium (38,000) -- West Point, New York Television: CBSSN. Home Record: BSU 3-1, Army 1-3. Away Record: BSU 2-2, Army 0-3. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, Army 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 3-2, Army 0-0. Series Record: Army leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals are set to step out of Mid-American Conference play and take on the Army Black Knights at Michie Stadium this weekend.
Coach Pete Lembo is on the verge of guiding the Cardinals to bowl eligibility for the second straight season. Ball State also began its 2011 season with a 5-3 record, but finished 6-6 and was one of just two eligible FBS teams not to be extended an invitation to a bowl game. The Cardinals are riding a two-game winning streak after last week's 41-30 victory over Central Michigan. This week's game is the final non-conference test on BSU's schedule.
Saturday will be the third consecutive week the Black Knights take on a team from the MAC. Army has lost seven straight against MAC opponents, including a 48-38 setback to the previously winless Eastern Michigan Eagles last time out. Coach Rich Ellerson's team, which is currently on a two-game losing slide, needs to win out to become bowl eligible.
Army holds a 2-1 advantage in its all-time series with Ball State. The Cardinals win in the rivalry was a 48-21 rout in Muncie last season on Sept. 24, 2011.
Ball State's success this season is largely due to its dynamic offense which leads the MAC in total offense with 480.8 yards per game. The only team to hold the Cardinals under 400 total yards of offense this season was Clemson.
BSU has a potent weapon out of the backfield in tailback Jahwan Edwards, who ranks fourth in the MAC with an average of 100.1 yards per game. The sophomore tailback has eclipsed the century mark in each of his last two games. Edwards frequently visits the end zone with 19 touchdowns in 20 career games.
Horactio Banks complements Edwards very well as an alternative option out of the backfield, but a knee injury kept him sidelined last week. While Banks was injured, Barrington Scott rushed a career-high 25 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
Ball State also has a potent passing attack with Keith Wenning under center. The junior quarterback went 23-of-30 for 231 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in last week's triumph over Central Michigan. On the season, Wenning has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,236 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Wenning has a pair of reliable targets in Willie Snead and Jamill Smith. Snead is 11th in the FBS and first in the MAC in receiving with 823 yards and six touchdowns on 62 receptions. Smith has 54 catches for 583 yards and three scores.
Ball State's defensive unit is not on par with its offense. Last week, Cardinals gave up 446 yards of total offense to the Chippewas, who came in averaging only 366.7 per contest.
Travis Freeman (83 tackles) and Tony Martin (62 tackles) are both key players on the defensive side of the ball for BSU. Freeman is 14th in the FBS and third in the MAC in tackles. Jonathan Newsome leads the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks.
Army is normally one of just a handful of programs in the country that still utilize a wishbone offensive scheme that relies almost exclusively on the run, but it has been evolving in recent weeks. Army attempted 44 passes in its past three games after throwing the ball just 28 times in its first four contests. Through just seven games, the Black Knights have amassed 2,724 yards on the ground, which is the most in the nation. On the other side Army has only 468 passing yards.
With such a prolific rushing attack the Black Knights have had a stable of backs carrying the ball, led by Raymond Maples, who has 789 yards on 137 carries for a solid 5.8 yards per carry and 112.7 yards per game. Quarterback Trent Steelman (709 yards, 10 TDs) leads the team in touchdown runs and is second on the team in attempts with 132.
As a passer, Steelman has completed only 22 passes all season for 356 yards and one touchdown. Last week, the senior had a record setting day, breaking a 26-year old program record for a quarterback with 212 rushing yards, which included two 70-plus yard dashes to the end zone.
The Black Knights are generous on the defensive side. They give up an average of 37.9 points and 466.1 yards per contest. Army has a number of prolific tacklers led by Geoffery Bacon, who has piled up 75 tackles. Brandon Fusilier- Jeffires has 50 total tackles, while Nate Combs has been a force on the line with six sacks and nine total tackles for loss.
The Cardinals will be able to score at will unless Army makes dramatic adjustments. Ball State was not nearly as efficient or dangerous offensively last season and it still compiled 545 yards of total offense against the Black Knights. Lembo's squad cannot afford to lose this one with Toledo and Ohio coming up next on the schedule.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 38, Army 27
10/24 10:32:20 ET