To the untrained eye, two middle of the pack MAC teams each playing their 6th game of the season isn’t that big of a deal. However, this game is huge, at least for both teams and their fan bases.
For both teams, it’s a winnable game and both will be flirting with bowl eligibility at the end of the season. It might be a little too early to call this a must win game for either team, but this is probably a must win game for each team. The winner will be 3-3 and on pace for a bowl game. The loser will be 2-4 and will need to close out the season 4-2, easier said than done.
When the Zips Have the Ball
Thomas Woodson has looked good, not great, this season. The running game has been solid but not spectacular. A large reason is the schedule. Troy is a pretty darn good football team and Penn State is even better. The receiver crew has been fairly impressive, at least with regards to depth.
Against a not great Cardinals defense, they should be able to move the ball. I fully expect the Zips to run well while Thomas Woodson does a good job distributing the ball on the edges. The Cardinals are giving up 372 yards per game and have given up 88 points combined in their last 2 games. I don’t see either trend changing in this game.
I expect the Zips to move the ball.
When the Cardinals Have the Ball
Riley Neal has been really good so far this season and efficient with the football. The Cardinals have a great running back by committee thing going, with Caleb Huntley leading the team with 259 yards on 4.9 yards per carry. James Gilbert is holding his own with 207 yards on 4.3 yards per carry. There is no doubt in my mind that he can do better and any game is a potential break out game on the season for him. Malik Dunner has 179 yards on the season including 66 yarder and leads the team with 4 rushing TDs.
The problem is that he also leads the team with the longest passing play of the season at 41 yards. The receivers have been solid for the Cardinals this season but far from spectacular.
The good news, if you are a Cardinals fan, is that Akron has sucked against the run. They are giving up near 5 yards per carry. I get that Saquon Barkley will do that, but their problems deeper than that.
I expect the Cardinals to move the ball as well.
This is a battle of two pretty good offenses going against two not so good defenses. Clearly this game will be a defensive struggle, where Ball State wins 4-2. I like the Zips, and think they have potential, but I can’t pick a team giving up 4.8 yards per carry.
Shout Out To Warren Ball
What a fucking bummer. I am writing this preview about a driver and 5 iron away from where Mr. Ball went to high school. To say his college career has been star crossed is an understatement. The NCAA rewarded him with a 6th year of eligibility in one of the few decent things they have done in the last 7 decades and the football Gods rewarded him with a broken ankle.