Ball State's (7-1, 4-0) quest for a MAC West crown continues to roll Saturday when the Cardinals visit Akron (2-6, 1-3).
Ball State enters Saturday's matchup at InfoCision winners of five in a row and seemingly on a collision course with MAC West power Northern Illinois on November 13th. First though, the Cardinals will need to deal with an Akron squad that a week ago snapped a 28 game losing streak and won a road game for the first time in nearly four years.
A week after a thriller at Northern Illinois, Akron finally put it all together. The Zips beat Miami 24-17 behind Jawon Chisholm's 86 yards and 3 touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Pohl was also effective, completing 23 of 32 passes for 227 yards without throwing an interception. Pohl leads an offense that is particularly pass heavy, throwing for 228 yards a game. Ball State head coach Pete Lembo knows despite their record, Akron has shown they can score with the MAC's elite.
"They've got some special guys," Lembo said Monday. "They know how to attack coverages. They do a good job checking plays and undressing your disguise, and they've got a lot of different kinds of receivers."
The Zips will certainly need to put up some big points on Saturday if they are going to stay competitive with the Cardinals. A week ago in Kalamazoo Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning threw for 300 yards for the eighth consecutive game. This season Wenning has rewritten the Ball State record books, becoming the leading passer in school history in a number of categories. Wenning leads the MAC in passing yards per game and his favorite receiver, Willie Snead, leads in receiving yards at nearly 120 yards per game. The rushing game is among the best in the conference as well. Junior running back Jahwan Edwards rushes just shy of 90 yards a game and leads the conference with 11 rushing touchdowns this season. Ball State scores over 39 points a game and will be a handful for the Akron secondary.
"Our kids respond well to tough competition," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "They played their best football against Michigan, Northern Illinois and then Bowling Green, right on down the line. That's what we expect to have to do and I'm proud of our players."
With a long awaited victory over an FBS opponent and a barn burner with Big Ten foe Michigan under their belt, there's plenty of reason for Akron's fans to look up. Nevertheless, the offensive juggernaut that is Ball State should have no problem with the Zips. Ball State has started off slow in the last several games, and it will be imperative for the Cardinals to get out early against Akron. If the Cardinals can build a strong half time lead and avoid the trap game, Ball State can move one step closer to the showdown with Northern Illinois in DeKalb.
Saturday's game can be seen at 12:00PM (ET) on ESPN3.