The working premise when it comes to scheduling appears to be that when you have a major event or need a major win, you schedule a team that for all intents and purposes will give you said W and please the homecrowd as de facto tomato cans should. Such is the case on Saturday in Muncie, as the Ball State Cardinals welcome in the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles to Scheumann Stadium.
For those hoping that this will be the next chapter in the plucky upstart FCS program that saunters in to a FBS stadium and walks out with a program-defining win, abandon all hope ye who enter here. Tennessee Tech is not an FCS powerhouse. Tennessee Tech is not one of the programs that spends, recruits, and competes like a lower-tier FBS program. Rather, Tennessee Tech is facing an 0-31 streak against FBS members and an 0-8 MAC streak. In the words of Lee Corso, “Yo!”.
Tennessee Tech comes into Saturday’s matchup at 0-2, dropping their season-opener to Western Illinois 41-14 and last week’s matchup to Kennesaw State 27-14. They are a pass-first attack, a feat fully on display with their 0 yards gained on the ground last week. That’s a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see how it works out for them. It’s also worth noting that their head coach Marcus Satterfield is exceptionally energetic and is known to spout off catchphrases and mottos to generate some energy and excitement. Sort of a PJ Fleck-lite, if you will. So get yourself ready for that, Muncie.
Ball State welcomes TTU in looking to go 2-1 on the season after a season-opening loss at Illinois and a victory last week against UAB in the Scheu. The Cardinals this season have been efficient and pragmatic in their approach, and though they may be short on star power and championship hopes, they are long on youth and without question are going to be a problem for the MAC in the very near future. Extreme youth turns into extreme experience, and when that happens championships often follow. This year’s Ball State team presents matchup problems across the board, with a QB in Riley Neal adept at taking what the defense gives him and not necessarily forcing the issue. The rushing attack, led by James Gilbert, was the predominant pre-season thought as to the key to victory for BSU, but surprisingly enough for the Mid-American Conference, the Cardinals have done it with defense.
It’s a rarity in Muncie that the defense leads the way, and it’s worth noting that Illinois and UAB aren’t some sort of Leach-ian offensive juggernauts, but if you’ve followed BSU football at all in recent memory there is at least some hope of a change of pace that it isn’t a “score 60 and hope to God you either have the ball last or the defense gets one stop” kind of situation anymore. Which is refreshing. Anthony Winbush creates chaos up front and is a problem that offensive lines have to plan around. That frees up others to make plays, a fact demonstrated by the eleven other Cardinals who have tackles for loss this season.
I am not a Cardinal Pollyanna but this Tennessee Tech team gives me literally no reason to worry. The only way this game is remotely close or competitive is if the Cardinals allow it to be so through their own lack of effort or lack of focus. That hasn’t been the case since head coach Mike Neu took the reigns in Muncie, and it’s hard to see it happening this weekend. Even then, the Cardinals still would likely be two to three scores better than the Golden Eagles. Seems like the perfect way to ring in Family Weekend in Muncie.