The MAC is 0-4 this bowl season. Ball State is 0-6 all time in bowl games. Still, today we pop the champagne! Loyal readers of this column know I do not and will not bet on Ball State University athletics. Why? Dip into your girlfriend's student loans to pay off a gambling debt and we can begin to have the conversation. That means we're done betting for the season. It feels anticlimactic doesn't it? It must be worse for the losers. The winning year is all the more remarkable considering the deep hole we dug for ourselves early. In week three we picked all 12 games, and went a P.J. Fleckian 2-10. (I'm just kidding, Fleck and the Broncos rowed themselves to a 1-11 record this season.) What followed was ten consecutive weeks of Mid-American Conference prognostication mastery unlikely to be duplicated in this lifetime or the next. Margins were slim, a common theme as we made unwatchable conference games watchable, but with the dust settled, we're back in the black. 42 winners versus 36 losers for the season. That's a winning percentage of .538, or if it helps you, the Kansas City Royals. Or Washington Nationals. Perhaps the Atlanta Hawks with their .563 clip is more appropriate. It's a commonly known fact that Dominique Wilkins is a loyal Hustle Belt reader and bets frequently on Mid-American Conference football. In any event, hopefully the winning season has provided you with enough bankroll for a "2014 GoDaddy Bowl Champions" shirt. And hopefully that shirt reads "Ball State." Here's your late lines for Ball State and Arkansas State on January 5th.
GoDaddy Bowl (January 5th, Mobile, Alabama)
Arkansas State vs. Ball State (-7)
This game opened with Ball State as nine point favorites, so some money has come down on the side of Arkansas State. Despite a flurry of coaching changes, Pete Lembo remains the head coach of the Cardinals. Whether or not that will extend into next season remains to be seen. Presently jobs at Texas and Penn State are open, and while Lembo may not be a realistic candidate for either of those positions, dominoes will fall and Pete's name may be called. Still, Ball State will enter Sunday's game with Lembo at the helm. It's certain solace to a fan base keenly aware their coach is a hot commodity and who remember Brady Hoke's hasty departure for San Diego State prior to the GMAC Bowl in 2008. Ball State's sole coaching loss was offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky's departure for Elon. Arkansas State was not as fortunate. Brian Harsin, who led the Red Wolves to a 7-5 record overall and a share of the Sun Belt championship, took over head coaching duties at Boise State. Harsin replaces Chris Petersen, who replaced Steve Sarkisian at Washington, who replaced Lane Kiffin at USC, who's a bum. Take note BSU faithful, that's how it happens. The last time Arkansas State dealt with a pre-bowl game coaching change was last year, and the Red Wolves responded with a 17-13 victory over Kent State in the GoDaddy Bowl. The aforementioned 2008 Ball State season ended with a loss to Tulsa, 45-13 in the GMAC Bowl. It's the same bowl, but with significantly different signage. So Arkansas State leadership is the major change to the game since our early lines. Certainly one must consider how players will respond before betting. In Ball State's case it was disaster, Tulsa steamrolled a team that went 12-0 in the regular season. The Red Wolves are used to this though. Hugh Freeze in 2011, Gus Malzahn in 2012, Harsin in 2013, Hustle Belt contributor in 2014. (Or Blake Anderson, former offensive coordinator at North Carolina.) The Red Wolves have shown in the past they don't get rattled by some of the unfortunate realities of college football.
You know Ball State. The Cardinals prolific, high octane offense dazzled MAC fans this season, dominating the skies for 333 passing yards a game. Keith Wenning and Willie Snead will look to pick up where they left off November 29th. In the last game of the regular season for the Cardinals, and final home game for Wenning, the Ball State signal caller threw for 445 yards and six touchdowns in a destruction of Miami. Snead led all receivers with 11 catches for 133 yards. For the season the Cardinals field the 10th most potent passing attack in the country. The Cardinals may find themselves in a shootout on Sunday as they've given up big points in spots this season. Ball State yields just under 195 yards a game on the ground and 226 yards through the air. That's 83rd nationally, and they'll run up against an Arkansas State squad that loves to run the ball. Three Red Wolves, Adam Kennedy, Michael Gordon, and David Oku, each carried the ball 100 times for more than 500 yards this season. Kennedy is a dual threat quarterback certainly more fond of the run than the pass. Unquestionably, both of these teams possess the capability of putting up big numbers. If this game hits the over, we're all winners. It'd be nice to see MACtion and the Fun Belt showcase innovative football on national television.
Thanks for reading Spread Offense this season. We'll be supplying you with betting tips for MAC basketball, so stay tuned. Remember to always bet just enough to make you nervous, and that every dollar not wagered on the Mid-American Conference is four quarters wasted.