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2019 MAC Football Week 3 Game Preview: Ball State Cardinals vs. Florida Atlantic Owls

The Cardinals look to keep their early momentum when hosting FAU.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ball State Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After solid showings on offense over the last two games, Ball State (1-1, 0-0 MAC) stays at home to battle Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls (0-2, 0-0 C-USA) on Saturday.

The Cardinals come in to the contest having to feel positive about the play of redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt, who has tossed eight touchdowns and just two interceptions after two games against Indiana and Fordham.

Plitt tossed for 439 yards, 6 touchdowns and went 32-for-40 in Ball State’s 57-29 victory against Fordham last week, which earned him Hustle Belt’s MAC Player of the Week honors.

Mike Neu’s offense has been highly reliant on the air attack in the early going of 2019, with Ball State rushing for just a net of 252 yards through two games. Caleb Huntley has led the Cardinals on the ground with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries.

Athletic wideout Justin Hall comes in as one of four Cardinals with 100 or more yards receiving, and leads the team in catches with 12. Tight end Riley Miller’s 167 yards receiving lead in that department.

Defensively, the Cardinals deployed a bend-don’t-break approach against a talented Indiana side, forcing true freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. into a pair of interceptions and kept BSU in the game by stopping long IU drives short of the goal line.

Ball State’s defense may have to adopt a similar approach to slow down Florida Atlantic’s offense. The Owls had one of the Conference USA’s best offensive attacks last season, putting up over 31 points per game last season.

This year, FAU has stumbled out the blocks to an 0-2 start, largely due to them playing two top 20 teams in No. 5 Ohio State and No. 17 Central Florida to start the season. The Owls will see Saturday’s game in much the same way as Ball State, looking to use it as a leapfrog for momentum into conference play.

Chris Robison has taken the vast majority of snaps for FAU in the early going, struggling to find teammates with a 54.1 completion percentage on 40-of-74 passing. On the ground, Larry McCammon Jr. is the only Owls rusher with over 100 yards. He’s turned 31 carries into 104 yards so far.

If Ball State wants to turn a corner in 2019 and be back in bowl eligibility, games like this one are the perfect test to see how it may shape up once MAC play starts up.

Expect a shootout in Muncie, with both teams scoring at will at times against defenses that have struggled in the early going.

Saturday’s game is set to kickoff at 2 p.m. EST at Scheumann Stadium. Radio coverage is available on 104.1 WLBC and the ESPN+ has the streaming coverage.