Most Ball State fans did not have grand illusions of Upset City when the Cardinals visited Clemson last week. As a follower of a non-BCS team, I naturally cling to true surprises (Ball State-Michigan 2006) and near-misses (Ball State-Nebraska 2007) even though both ended in defeat. For the most part, that's all we can hope for. Most games are littered with blowouts, like ones administered in previous years by Wisconsin and Iowa.
So, no, I did not expect Ball State to go to Death Valley and win. But I did want the Cardinals to "show something", bring out at least one facet to the table that can give opponents a scare.
We saw that with the run game. And Indiana should be very concerned.
Look, Clemson put up silly statistics against Ball State. That should come as no surprise. MAC defenses are mostly terrible and are placed on the field strictly to provide targets for the conference quarterbacks to carve up. The yardage and point totals Clemson put up, no big deal in the grand scheme of things.
But Ball State, just like it did against Eastern Michigan, ran roughshod over the Tiger defense, tallying 252 yards on 40 attempts, a 6.3 per carry average that is the highest the Tigers have allowed since 2008.
For a small chuckle, hop over to our SB Nation brethren The Crimson Quarry for some thoughts on this game. If you don't click on the link, I'll fill you in. I adore Ball State but I'm mostly realistic about the team's talent level. But there's some humor in the fact they think Vegas' IU -2.5 point spread is too low, that they can keep Ball State from rushing for more than 200 yards and that the Hoosiers will win by two scores.
I'd love to go Fire Joe Morgan style on a number of sentences thrown in there, but I'll refrain.
I ask this seriously: is there a position on the field where IU is better than Ball State?
Quarterback: Wenning vs. Coffman. Edge, Ball State. (NOTE: The edge here will still belong to Ball State even if Tre Roberson was still playing.)
Offensive line: Five starters return from a group that leads the eighth-best rushing attack in the nation. Edge, Ball State. Ball State racked up those yards against Eastern Michigan and one of the top-12 teams in the nation, Clemson. Indiana State and UMass, these are not.
IU certainly doesn't have a linebacker better than Travis Freeman or a defensive back better than Jason Pinkston. And Jonathan Newsome - the
Notre Dame Ohio State transfer - returns to the defensive line following a suspension.
The explosion of the run game has dampened Wenning's stats a little bit. And that's OK. He's somehow a bit under the radar now, and he'll be perfectly fine running the Cardinal offense.
I don't know a single ardent follower of Ball State football that thinks the Cardinals will lose this game. It's not blind loyalty: Ball State is just better. This isn't quite like 2008, when the Peegs message boards were filled with pre-game comments on how easy a win would be before Nate Davis and the Cards routed the Hoosiers 42-20 in Bloomington.
If Ball State wins, it'll be the Cards' third straight win over the Hoosiers. Last year's game should serve as an accurate barometer of how Saturday will go.