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Ball State Cardinals vs. UMass Minutemen Football Preview: Wednesday Night MACtion

The Ball State Cardinals try to ruin the Minutemen's chance to shine at home in prime time. Will the Minutemen prevail, or will the Cardinals make the Minutemen wish they packed up and left the MAC already.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

It's happening folks. Wednesday football at Mcguirk. With only 15 games left (up to 17, pending on how you feel about next year's team) in the Massachusetts Minutemen MAC tenure, the Minutemen finally will host a MAC-staple weeknight game on campus. Joining them for the festivities will be the Ball State Cardinals. Like the Minutemen, the Cardinals won two in a row before stumbling in their last game. Unlike the Minutemen, each team they felled has more wins than the two teams the Minutemen beat combined. We're onto the sixth game of MAC play for these two teams, so we know what makes each tic. Let's look at the two big matchups for the game, and see if we can figure out how each team wins.

Blake Frohnapfel vs. Ball State's Secondary

Blake Frohnapfel has been UMass's savior this season. Combined with Tajae Sharpe and Jean Sifrin, the Minutemen's aerial attack has been unstoppable. There's a reason they're sixth in the nation in passing offense (331 yards per game) and average over 30 points a game. This may be trouble for Ball State, as the defense has let up 60.5% of passes for completions (83rd in the nation). Ball State is quite good, however, at protecting against the deep ball. They let up only 6.7 yards per pass attempt, good for 42nd in the nation, and over a yard less than the Minutemen's average of 7.5 yards per attempt. Since the Cardinals don't have to worry about the run, as UMass averages a mere 3.3 yards per carry, the defense can just worry about keeping in coverage and stopping the explosive UMass aerial attack.

Jahwan Edwards vs. Massachusett's Defense

Where UMass prefers to do it through the air, Ball State's greatest successes so far have come on the ground. Ball State averages just 5.8 yards per attempt through the air, good for 116th in the country, which is unfortunate for them since UMass lets up 6.9 yards per pass attempt. Meanwhile, Jahwan Edwards has averaged 4.6 yards per rush attempt, and has found the end zone nine times. Meanwhile, the Minutemen have been letting up 4.8 yards per carry. When the Minutemen last played, Kareem Hunt lit the defense up for almost 200 yards rushing. If Jahwan Edwards can get his motor going, he can carry the Cardinals to Victory.

The Minutemen Win If:

They can limit the mistakes that have been plaguing them all season, and air the ball out. Too many Minutemen games have turned on a dime because of fumbles, missed kicks, blocked punts, or any other self inflicted catastrophe at the worst possible time. With two weeks off leading up to this game, the Minutemen should be ready. If they can stay focused and limit those mental lapses, they should be able to come out on top.

The Cardinals Win If:

The passing game makes early strides and gives Jahwan Edwards room to run. UMass's secondary has been porous at times, and multiple teams have proved that when you force the Minutemen to over-commit to stopping the pass, the run game can flourish. If the Minutemen know they can pack the box, Jahwan Edwards might have a tough time to get moving and Ball State won't be able to get off the ground.

Prediction:

Minutemen 34, Ball State 27. For those counting, that's five touchdowns and one missed extra point for the Minutemen.