Ball State at Eastern Michigan Preview

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals and Eagles look to start of the conference season in a winning way Saturday in Ypsilanti.

One of the advantages of being a fan of Mid-American Conference football is that a non-conference loss does not a season make.

The Ball State Cardinals (2-1) and Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-2) will look to shake off losses a week ago when they kick off their Mid-American Conference seasons Saturday at Rynearson Stadium Saturday in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ball State enters having suffered a loss at North Texas where it was unable to hold onto a 27-16 halftime lead, succumbing to the Mean Green 34-27. The top ranked offense in the MAC disappeared in the second half last Saturday as North Texas took advantage of Cardinals turnovers in the come from behind win. Keith Wenning turned in his third straight 300 yard passing game of the season in the loss, one of just four FBS quarterbacks to do so. The Cardinals passing offense ranks 13th in the FBS. The Cardinals will need to rediscover the explosive offense that scored 51 points against Illinois State the opening week and 40 points against Army a week later. Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English knows the sort of numbers Wenning can put up.

"They have a tremendous quarterback," English said. "[He's] very, very accurate."

Ball State will take the field without deep threat KeVonn Mabon who will miss the rest of the season after suffering a collarbone injury against North Texas. Mabon had surgery Tuesday and will seek a medical redshirt. Coach Pete Lembo acknowledged Mabon's injury is part of the game.

"That's football," Lembo said. "You just have to deal with it. We don't make excuses about it. We never have. We never will."

Eastern Michigan is fresh off a 28-10 drubbing last week at Rutgers. Tyler Benz aired it out against the Scarlet Knights, throwing for 335 yards on 24 of 40 passing. The Eagles actually outgained the Scarlet knights in total yards 373-274 and had a more than 15 minutes advantage in time of possession. Lembo and the Cardinals know the sort of challenge Benz can present.

"I really like how [he's] making plays right now," Lembo said. "He throws well on the run."

Benz has seen little help though. The Eastern Michigan running game averages just 89 yards on the ground, ranking 107th in the nation. If the Eagles are going to notch a win in the series where the Cardinals have won 7 of the last 8, they will need contributions from running backs Bronson Hill and Ryan Brumfield. After back to back contests with BCS conference foes, they should see an increased workload against a Ball State defense that allows 222 ypg on the ground.

As the Cardinals have dominated this series of late, Eastern Michigan is sure to be hungry for a win. Wins have been hard to come by recently for English's squad, and Lembo knows recent history is not lost on the Eagles.

"We've played two very close games against them," Lembo said. "Both went our way. I can tell you, because if the tables were turned I know how I would feel, that they've got a bit of an ax to grind with us."

Saturday's game is a 1 p.m. ET kickoff and can be seen on ESPN3.

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