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2017 Week 8 Preview: Central Michigan at Ball State

Which team will move up in the MAC West standings?

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, nothing about either team makes any sense. The Ball State Cardinals (2-4, 0-2 MAC) and Central Michigan Chippewas (3-4, 1-2 MAC) are very different teams each week. Both teams are desperate for wins and will pull out all the stops to rise up in the competitive MAC West race. With several games remaining, Ball State and Central Michigan are still in the running for the elusive division championship.

Central Michigan is a fun team to watch. In their opening week’s narrow victory over FCS Rhode Island, some of the Chippewa faithful got nervous. The very next week, Central Michigan earned a Power-five win against the Kansas Jayhawks 45-27. Three consecutive losses to the Syracuse Orange, Miami-Ohio Redhawks, and Boston College Eagles seemed to doom Central Michigan. Out of nowhere, the Chippewas rallied and took down preseason the MAC East favorite Ohio Bobcats on the road.

Unfortunately for the Chippewas, injuries have plagued the entire team. A shortage of wide receivers forced the Chippewas to line up with two quarterbacks, one acting as a wide receiver. Recently, Shane Morris gives passing looks to fellow quarterback Tony Poljan, who fits the job description with his massive 6’7” frame. In addition to playing wide receiver, Poljan is also seeing quarterback reps to keep Morris healthy.

Turnover margin might play to Central Michigan’s advantage. The Chippewas are +1 in turnover margin, having earned seven fumbles and 10 interceptions and losing five fumbles and 11 interceptions. Josh Cox is responsible for four of those interceptions alone. By contrast, Ball State is -6. The Cardinals came up with two fumbles and five interceptions, but lost four fumbles and nine interceptions.

Ball State showed a glimmer of hope early in the season, but has since looked flat. The Cardinals gave the Illinois Fighting Illini a good scare, but ended up losing 24-21. Ball State then beat the UAB Blazers and FCS-member Tennessee Tech. The next three weeks were losses to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, and Akron ZIps. During the 55-3 loss at Western Michigan, the Cardinals looked positively defeated, casting doubt on the rest of the season.

With Riley Neal injured, Jack Milas and Zack Blair have taken over in the quarterback position. While Milas was originally the backup behind Riley Neal, Zack Blair has made appearances in the last two games for the Cardinals. While neither Milas nor Blair have thrown touchdowns yet, Jack Milas’ six interceptions to date are raising plenty of question as to who will start now.

Players to Watch

Shane Morris, QB, CMU - Shane Morris is exactly the exciting type of quarterback we all love to see. In any game, he could be so-so or he could be incredible. In his worst game, he still put 171 passing yards on the Boston College Eagles. Morris’ best game came against Kansas, where he lit up the Jayhawks for five touchdowns and 467 yards. Although he is not advertised as a dual-threat quarterback, Shane Morris can absolutely scramble for a first down if need be. If Ball State has any holes in the secondary, Morris will exploit it all game long.

Caleb Huntley, RB, Ball State - True freshman Caleb Huntley has earned more touches as the season progresses. In a season shrouded by quarterback controversy, Huntley has shone with a dynamic ground game. In the Ball State victory over UAB, Caleb Huntley average 8.6 yards per carry. Despite being 5’10”, Huntley runs with a low center of gravity, allowing him to break through weak tackles. If Ball State can make some holes or the Chippewas fail to wrap him up, Caleb Huntley will have a field day.

Game Information

Where: Scheumann Stadium in Munice, Indiana

When: 3:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, Oct 21

How to watch: ESPN3