Saturday’s contest was a tale of two storylines for Akron and Ball State. For the Zips, it was a road Mid-American Conference game, the next in line for them, on their way to Detroit. For the Cardinals, it was the opportunity that Mike Neu needed to have a premier MAC win on his newly crafted head coach resume and gain another W on the road to bowl eligibility. Different reasons for importance to be sure, but important all the same.
Our takeaways from the 35-25 Akron win:
- The Ball State offense is Gilbert-centric. If you’ve watched BSU at all this season, you know that James Gilbert has been the straw that stirred the drink in Muncie. Saturday was no different as Gilbert’s 133 yards on the ground and 1 TD kept the Cards in a position to win, even as the rest of the offense struggled. Mike Neu indicated after the game that QB1 and Riley Neal’s position will be reviewed this week, but he isn’t against a change if it’s warranted. Something tells me RB1 is written in ink.
- The Akron offense is phenomenal, once it gets going. It was another slow start for Akron, getting behind 10-0 before turning it on and storming back. This is not a sustainable strategy for the Zips. Whether it’s a lack of focus out of the gate or believing they are capable of flipping a switch when they need to, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of their season. Championship teams turn it on, keep it on, and pour it on. Look over in Kalamazoo for how that should be.
- Ball State’s defense may not be as vaunted as once thought. The Cardinal defense, ranked 10th in the country and tops in the MAC in sacks, came away yesterday with exactly zero. Akron’s offensive line and QB Thomas Woodson are clearly a solid unit, but a defense completely held at bay isn’t a defense that can be counted on. And with an inconsistent QB leading a fairly one-dimensional offense, that is not a bowl-making recipe.
- The MAC East is there for the taking. For Akron, with four games remaining, there is a clear path to a divisional championship and one that is definitely achievable. Their season-finale is at Ohio, who they are tied with for the division currently, but the three games in lead up to (@Buffalo, Toledo, Bowling Green) are all winnable. Even if the Zips lose their toughest contest against the Rockets, it will still come down to their closer against the Bobcats. A one game playoff essentially for a MAC Championship berth? Yes, please.
- Ball State’s bowl hopes are on life support. At 4-4 with four games remaining, Cardinal optimists are clinging to a potential 8-4 record. It’s not so much the current record and the number of games left, it’s who those games are against. Western, Eastern, and Toledo (on the road, no less), along with a resurgent Miami team to close the season, means that it is a longshot for the Cards to even reach 6-6. For bowl hopes, three out of the four have to be won, and realistically, all four. Not impossible, but as close as you can get without that being the case.