Ball State-Indiana Preview: Hoosier Bragging Rights At Stake

The line for Saturday night's game between Ball State and Indiana has already moved one point in the Cardinals' favor the past three days.

They're still 6-point underdogs to the boys from Bloomington, but it certainly appears bettors aren't that confident the Hoosiers are that much better than the Fighting David Lettermans. In fact, it's the only game involving a Big Ten team versus a non-BCS school or a MAC school vs. a BCS team where the spread is less than 14 points.

So Ball State's got that going for them, which is nice.

A little bit of a backstory here: This was originally supposed to be at Scheumann Stadium, but was switched to Lucas Oil Stadium. It would've been nice to have this as a home game, but the players are probably content with playing at the home of the Indianapolis Colts. The fans are ready, too. Ball State has already sold a ridiculous 25,000 tickets for this game, 4,000 of those student tickets. IU, not surprisingly, is nowhere near this, at 6,100.

There are number of concerns for Ball State heading into this one, in no particular order:

1.     Running backs

Head coach Pete Lembo can preach to us all he wants about Barrington Scott, but we're talking about a kid who was a walk-on who doesn't have the size or breakaway speed of an Eric Williams or Cory Sykes. Williams, the team's top rusher a season ago, left after a falling out with the new coaching staff and is reportedly at NAIA Marian University, although he's not listed on the team's roster. (NOTE: Former Indiana University football player Nick Zachery, who left the school when new coach Kevin Wilson came aboard, is also at Marian). Rumors are floating that Sykes will be available in limited action Saturday night. That would provide a big boost.

2.     Quarterbacks

Keith Wenning is going to be the signal-caller on Ball State's first offensive play. Take with that what you will. As mentioned in the preview, the previous coaching staff was high on Wenning's ability, but it doesn't appear he fully solidified his starting position in the preseason. A couple bad series and Kelly Page and his now super-long hair (he had a crew-cut previously) may step onto the field.

3.     Defensive Line

On the whole, I'm not concerned about the defense, but if there is a problem area, it's defensive line, and perhaps the cornerback playing opposite Jason Pinkston in sophomore Jeffery Garrett. Having said that, Charlie Todd will not be missed.

The four defensive linemen are defensive ends Ryan Hartke and Andrew Puthoff (high school teammates) and defensive tackles Nathan Ollie and Adam Morris. The Cardinals have three of the best defensive players in the Mid-American Conference in Pinkston, linebacker Travis Freeman and man-beast ball-hawking safety Sean Baker.

OTHER MUSINGS

  • When Ball State beat Indiana, 42-20, in 2008, it was the first time Ball State had ever beaten a BCS school. It remains the only one.
  •  Baker is currently Ball State's all-time interception leader, but may find it hard to add to that total the first four games. He's playing with a broken thumb. 
  • If Scott and his knee injuries creep up, Lembo will turn to the ghosts of Marcus Merriweather, Michael Blair or Bernie Parmalee because David Brown is listed as doubtful and Sykes and Dwayne Donigan are listed as questionable. Oy. The official backup is true freshman Jahwan Edwards.
  •  The receivers are really an unknown quantity. Briggs Orsbon is definitely the most talented, but seems to have been ignored since 2008. Who's going to step up? Can Jack Tomlinson be a legit threat again? Will Torieal Gibson do something?
  • Team captains for the 2011 season are Baker, Kreg Hunter, Morris, Orsbon and Puthoff.
  • IU will trot out two quarterbacks - Dusty Kiel or Edwad Wright-Baker. The old adage "if you have two quarterbacks, you have none" may be proven true here. The QB that would frighten the daylights out of coordinators, true freshman Tre Roberson, is the third-stringer. He's very Kellen Lewis-like, minus the alleged cocaine addiction.
  • This game will be available for viewing on ESPN3. Or you can listen to the dulcet tones of Morry Mannies on WLBC 104.1 .... OR, you can listen online with the Cardinal Sports Link student announcing team of Pat Boylan and Kyle Binder.       
  • Ball State really solidified a few things for the future with the announcement that two transfers: Jonathan Newsome (Ohio State) and running back Toney Williams (Tennessee) are now in Muncie and ready to play in 2012. Bring us your poor, your few, your huddled masses BCS teams. We'll find a spot for them on our team. Newsome was a high school teammate of Pinkston and Freeman's at Glenville (Ohio) High School.
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