Ball State will look to keep the momentum rolling Saturday when the Cardinals meet Virginia at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville. Ball State enters Saturday 4-1 overall and 2-0 in MAC play, while the Cavaliers are 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the ACC's Coastal Division.
Ball State's offense continues to be one of the most explosive in the nation. The Cardinals average 40 points and 472 yards of total offense a game. The BSU passing attack, averaging 335 yards through the air, is good for 10th nationally. With Keith Wenning under center the Cardinals have scored on their opening drive in each of their first five games, the only school in FBS to do so.
That offensive firepower will need to be in top form Saturday as the Cardinals run up against the nation's 16th ranked defense. The Cavaliers allow a scant 152 yards passing yards a game. Defensively, this looks to be the stiffest test of the 2013 season for BSU.
"It is a great opportunity, but it is going to be a tremendous, tremendous test for us," Ball State head coach Pete Lembo said Monday. "Defensively, they know exactly what they want to be. That’s a high pressure unit. They will mix in a little bit of cover-1 and a little bit of 2-deep, but mostly you’re going to get zone blitz out of four down and they are very good at what they do."
While Virginia is a solid defensive opponent, the Cavaliers hardly have the best offense the Cardinals will encounter this season. Subtract a 49-0 win against VMI on September 21st, and UVA has totaled just 32 points in a win against BYU and losses to Pitt and Oregon. Quarterback David Watford has thrown twice as many interceptions as touchdowns and averages just 150 yards passing a game. Cavaliers head coach Mike London recognizes the Cardinals as a formidable opponent.
"Playing well, trying to fix things we've looked at to get fixed, is important," London said. "This game is that next game. So playing well against Ball State is important."
As the gap continues to shrink between the MAC and automatic qualifying BCS conferences, Ball State can notch its fourth win over such opponents in three seasons. Lembo is the architect of those wins, and knows the importance of victories over major programs.
"From a program standpoint, we're really proud of the fact that we've defeated three BCS level opponents in the last two seasons," Lembo said. "That's three of the four wins in Ball State history from these types of conferences." "Wins like (Indiana and South Florida) have really perpetuated this understanding and belief within our building and locker room," Lembo explained, "that we've got to control what we can control."
The Cardinals kickoff at noon Eastern on Saturday. The game can be seen on ESPN 3 and GamePlan.