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Week 10 MAC Football Preview: Eastern Michigan Eagles at Ball State Cardinals

A Battle of the Birds will take place on Election Day, with bowl eligibility in the balance.

NCAA Football: Ball State at Texas A&M Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

To say that Eastern Michigan has had a magical season this year is an understatement.

The Eagles are currently sitting at 5-4 and only need one more win to become bowl eligible. This week, they face the Ball State Cardinals who are 4-5. Both teams are coming off two-game losing streaks and hope to correct that.

After Eastern Michigan’s nice start, this was the game I was actually looking forward to seeing. After splitting their two opening games, Eastern Michigan looked like it was going to have a nice season last year.

In fact, they started the Ball State game leading 17-0 with about 5 minutes or so left in the half. Eastern appeared to be cruising to the victory, but Ball State was threatening.

Ball State was at the 50 or so yardline and it looked like their quarterback was about to be sacked. Instead, he eluded the first tackle and on his way to the endzone, there were at least seven missed tackles. Ball State didn’t look back after that point. Eastern Michigan would end up going 1-11.

When Ball State has the ball.

With the apparent injury to usual starter, the reins have been handed to quarterback Jack Milas.

In his only game so far, he threw for 199 yards and one touchdown against Western Michigan and was intercepted twice. Ball State averages around 27 points per game. Their leading rusher is James Gilbert, one of the country’s more underrated rushers, who runs an average of 127 yards per game. The Cardinals leading receiver is KeVonn Mabon, who picks up about 71 yards per game.

They are facing a stout defense where the leading tackler is Jason Beck. The Eastern Michigan defense is pretty good in turning over the ball, with 12 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries so far on the year. That defense has cut allowed rushing yards in half from their mark last season, a great recovery from 2015’s historically abysmal numbers. The passing defense still needs some work though; EMU has allowed around 30 points per game so far.

When Eastern Michigan has the ball.

I expect that Brogan Roback will be the starting quarterback again. At this point in the season, he has earned that spot.

Roback has thrown for 231 yards per game and has only been intercepted three times. If there is a weak spot on the team, it’s that the rushing game has been pretty close to non-existent. The leading rusher is Ian Eriksen with about 57 yards per game. There isn’t a particular target on receiving but if I had to pick one, it would be Sergio Bailey III.

Ball State’s leading tackler is Sean Wiggins. Even though Anthony Winbush has 6 sacks, he is facing a line that has allowed fewer than 1 sack per game. Ball State has allowed about 28 points per game. Ball State isn’t as good at forcing turnovers as Eastern Michigan though.

What Does All This Mean?

Based all all the stats, I expect a pretty close game. Fortunately for Eastern Michigan, Ball State doesn’t have a very strong passing game. If Eastern Michigan can stop the Ball State rushing game, I think it will be a good night for them. I think this game is probably going to be decided on a turnover and if so, that will favor Eastern Michigan as well. So I’m going to go out on a limb and predict an Eastern Michigan victory.

The game will be at 7:00 p.m. EST in Muncie, Indiana on Election Day. It will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network (look up your cable company for a channel).

If you prefer the radio dial, it will be covered on WWWW-FM this week due to WEMU, EMU’s normall broadcast parter, covering election results. WWWW-FM can be found on 102.9 FM in the southeast Michigan area or online at W4country.com.

The high on Tuesday will be 63 degrees, with potential of rain in the evening close to kickoff.