The Central Michigan Chippewas stormed into Muncie and demolished everything red and white at Scheumann Stadium on Saturday afternoon. In the largest conference matchup blowout in the MAC this season, the Chippewas annihilated the Ball State Cardinals 56-9.
In the words of Paul Brown, "You can learn a line from a win and a book from defeat." So Mike Neu and Ball State just learned an entire encyclopedia. Here's what we take away from the 47-point deficit between the MAC West teams:
Ball State is by far the worst team in the MAC West
The MAC West is very stacked. Northern Illinois and Toledo are still undefeated in conference play and combine for an 11-3 record, while the reigning champion Western Michigan Broncos remain a step behind at 5-3, 3-1 in conference. This win propels Central Michigan to 4-4, so here's what remains:
- Eastern Michigan, 2-5, 0-3 in MAC
- Ball State, 2-5, 0-3 in MAC
But all five of Eastern Michigan's losses were winnable games for the Eagles. They've lost by 7 (2OT), 4, 5, 1, and 3 (OT). Eastern Michigan is in every game but just can't seem to pull away in the end.
Meanwhile, Ball State is out here dropping games by 47 points on homecoming weekend. The Cardinals have lost their conference games by a combined score of 142-15. In fact, Saturday's nine-point "outburst" was the best Ball State's offense has performed against their MAC West opponents. The team still has not scored a touchdown since a 12-point loss at Western Kentucky on September 23. After a promising 2-1 start with a near-upset over Illinois, Ball State crumbled like a Chick-fil-A receipt that's been sitting in the backseat of your car for months.
Shane Morris finally showed us what we've been waiting to see
Here's an important stat, one that still holds true after Saturday:
When Shane Morris completes above 50% of his passes, Central Michigan is 4-0. Otherwise, the Chippewas are 0-4. But Morris wasn't just accurate against Ball State, he was immaculate. The senior transfer from Michigan completed 16-of-21 passes, throwing for 199 yards and four touchdowns in the convincing victory.
His offense was alive in well throughout all four quarters in Muncie. Morris especially shined in the second quarter, hitting Tyler Conklin and Corey Willis (both back from previous injuries) for touchdown passes over 30 yards. Morris didn't even need to throw very much on Saturday, but when he did, he tore up Ball State's secondary.
Anthony Winbush remains a star for Ball State
Ball State's star defensive end Anthony Winbush plays at such a high level, so even when his team loses by 47 and the rest of the defense looks atrocious, he still manages to have a great game. Winbush finished with two sacks, three tackles for loss, and one forced fumble in the loss.
It was the senior's third game of two or more sacks this year, and he ranks second in the nation in the category behind Central Michigan's defensive end Joe Ostman.
And Joe Ostman is the new sack king of college football
As strong as Central Michigan's offense looked, no player left more on the field on Saturday than the Chippewas' senior defensive end Joe Ostman. The senior defensive end worked right through the Ball State offensive line en route to a career-high four sacks.
The impressive number of sacks in one contest vaulted Ostman into the nation's number-one sack spot for 2017 (10). Winbush (9.5) sits at second place, and NIU's Sutton Smith (8.5) checks in at third. So, the top three leaders in the category are all defensive ends from the same conference. In fact, shall I coin a new term — #SACKtion?
But Ostman has now forced three fumbles and registered seven sacks in his past three weeks. This year's MAC Defensive Player of the Year race will be a heated competition between these three pass rushers, and Ostman certainly made his case with a dominant performance in Week 8.
Don't throw the Chippewas in a bowl just yet
Central Michigan demolished Ball State with the team's all-around best performance of the year. Morris looked phenomenal, the defense didn't yield a touchdown, and even Jonathan Ward finally lifted his rushing game back to a high level — his 97 yards were his most against FBS competition this season.
But we'll really see what the Chippewas are made of in the next several weeks, starting with next week's heated rivalry game at Kalamazoo against the Western Michigan Broncos. The Broncos are a solid program, although a shell of last year's 13-1 squad, but Central Michigan must keep its foot on the gas if it wants to reach bowl season for the fourth-straight season.
The Chippewas also will compete in home games against Eastern Michigan (a solid team, but also the unluckiest team in the nation as mentioned earlier) and Northern Illinois, which is probably the toughest game left on the schedule for John Bonamego's team. In between those matchups is a very winnable road game at Kent State.
In order to take down Western Michigan and/or Northern Illinois, offense will be the key ingredient. Morris has to continue making smart passes and completing attempts at a high rate, and the rushing game must continue to be competent to keep defenses on their toes. After a bad loss to Miami (OH) early in the season, Central Michigan is likely out of the stacked MAC West race, but the Chippewas can be threatening to any front runner in the conference. Just ask Ohio. They'll just have to fare 2-2 in a tough final stretch.