The Ball State Cardinals are primed for a big season in 2013. Can they knock off Northern Illinois's crown as king of the MAC West? How good is this Keith Wenning-led offense?
SB Nation's Bill Connelly previewed the team back in March, and nothing major has changed since. You can view his full preview HERE. It's a much more in-depth preview than mine, seeing as I'm not a BSU expert, but here's a brief look at what the Cardinals bring to the table in 2013.
Offensively Ball State features a balanced attack with star quarterback Keith Wenning, receiver Willie Snead and running back Jahwan Edwards. This offense has the potential to be the best in the MAC. Wenning might be the best pure passer in the conference, and he has the track record to back that up. Edwards is a quick back with good size and is capable of carrying the load. But, Horactio Banks makes it to where he doesn't have to, providing a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield. Snead heads up a group of receivers near the top of the MAC.
The only thing holding this offense back from being declared the conference's best prior to the start of the season, is the questions along the offensive line. Ball State is going to have one of the least experienced O-lines in the FBS, with four new starters up front. With new starters at both tackles, center and right guard, the Cardinals will need the O-line to gain experience quick if the offense wants to live up to the high expectations.
Defensively, Ball State features nose guard Nathan Ollie and defensive end Jonathan Newsome, two stud defensive lineman among the best in the MAC. But the rest of the defense features some significant question marks. Such as, can they hold opposing offenses to under 30 points-per-game this season and make things a bit easier on Wenning and company? How will the three new starting linebackers—Ben Ingle, Zack Ryan and Christopher Calloway—fare? If Pete Lembo can manage to squeeze better production out of his defense, it could be enough to tip the scales in the Cardinals' favor in what looks to be a stiff level of competition at the top of the MAC West.
|Thur, Aug. 29||vs. Illinois State|
|Sat, Sept. 7||vs. Army|
|Sat, Sept. 14||@ North Texas|
|Sat, Sept. 21||@ Eastern Michigan*|
|Sat, Sept. 28||vs. Toledo*|
|Sat, Oct. 5||@ Virginia|
|Sat, Oct. 12||vs. Kent State*|
|Sat, Oct. 19||@ Western Michigan*|
|Sat, Oct. 26||@ Akron*|
|Wed, Nov. 6||vs. Central Michigan*|
|Wed, Nov. 13||@ Northern Illinois*|
|Fri, Nov. 29||@ Miami*|
Schedule wise there's no reason to think Ball State couldn't win 9 or 10 games in 2013. They have an easy non-conference slate, with the toughest test coming from a road game against a Virginia squad that went 4-8 in 2012. The conference slate is relatively easy as well. The Cardinals get Kent State at home, the two only other teams they face off with from the East—Akron and Miami—should be easy wins for the Cards' as well. The real test comes from a home game against Toledo, and a road trip to DeKalb to face the two-time defending MAC champion Northern Illinois Huskies. These three teams will likely be in a race to the top all season long. Ball State will need to win at home against Toledo and avoid any conference slip-ups before the NIU game if it wants to take home a MAC West crown.
With Wenning set to graduate, and head coach Pete Lembo likely moving on to greener ($) pastures after the season, it's do-or-die time for the Cardinals this season.