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Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Ball State Cardinals Football Preview: Talkin' sMACk

Hustle Belt's only two Sam's and two of the Belt's just three high school writers are here to tell you why their side will claim the Bronze Stalk on some WEDNESDAY NIGHT #MACTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brian Kersey

Sam Neidermann: The battle for the Bronze Stalk Trophy (which is fitting since the home for both teams is just a bunch of cornfields) is Wednesday night, as NIU ventures into Muncie to take on Ball State. Let's be honest now, this game's profile is nowhere near last year's classic (which NIU won) and the reason for that would be Ball State has faltered so far this season. Then again NIU hasn't had a big conference win yet, so BSU has got to have some good feelings heading into this clash at home.

Sam Barloga: This game might not have the same profile as last year, but I think it would be silly for fans of these two teams to overlook this match up. A win for the Huskies puts BSU officially out of the west race and a win for the Cardinals throws them in the heart of the division and bowl eligibility race.

The Cards are not just feeling confident about what NIU hasn't done, but about what they have done over the course of the last two weeks. Wins over Central and Akron show that this is not a game Northern should just throw in the win column. Can Jack Milas do something Keith Wenning never did and win the Bronze Stalk? With the way BSU has been playing lately, I'd say yes.

Sam N: Alright then. Keep in mind though, Wenning was not all that bad in last year's meeting. It was more of a story of how the Cardinals could not stop Jordan Lynch (cough cough, Jonathan Newsome). Drew Hare is starting to get comfortable in the system with production. Your defense has improved over your past two wins, although I am not sure they'd be able to stop the Huskie offense in this one, especially with extra time to draw things up.

Ball State will have to prepared because even though NIU hasn't been putting up the scores some are used to seeing, this week may be the week for them to bust out with a big offensive output. I mean it's MACtion, no better time to do it then on a week night of MAC football.

Sam B: First off, I know all about last year. I was at Huskie Stadium for the game.

Ball State's defense may have some problems if this game is close coming down into the stretch. Going into the Akron game, the Cards had really struggled with shutting teams down late. But, in the Akron game the defense came to life in the second half, forcing five second-half turnovers to allow BSU to score 29 unanswered to beat the Zips. Two of the four INT's were by Tyree Holder, with Eric Patterson and Zack Ryan getting in on the fun as well.

So, this BSU defense has momentum on their side, getting the big-time stops when they needed them against a pretty-good Akron team. Add in 35 points versus the MAC's best defense and you have a reason to think Jahwan Edwards and BSU offense can rumble through a Huskie team that trailed Eastern Michigan in the fourth quarter.

Sam N: OK, I will admit that Eastern bossed most of the game against NIU, you can look at the time of possession, first downs, all that jazz. A win is a win though, my friend.

Now, I am not the biggest fan of NIU's defense, every NIU fan can't be satisfied with their product, but their 'bend don't break' style of play has done well enough to get wins. Milas is no huge threat to go off through the air versus NIU's young secondary, but the front seven is more than capable of keeping Jahwan Edwards in check. They don't have to shut him down totally, but the D-line has exceeded expectations thus far, and even without Jamaal Bass, the linebacking group is tough against the run. Look at the Arkansas game. NIU may have gotten killed, yes, but they kept Alex Collins in check, in the end, what killed them was getting beat on third downs via the passing game. Ball State is no Arkansas. I expect the Huskies to be ready for Edwards on the ground.

Ball State may have 10 turnovers forced over the past two games, yet how are they to go and tackle the big bulldozer that is Cam Stingily, he has been dominating now that he is back in the comforts of conference play, and also has Joel Bouagnon at his side, not even mentioning the fact that it looks like Akeem Daniels will be able to contribute to the cause in this game. Drew Hare has only thrown one interception this season and knows how to take care of the ball.

Sam B: But, unlike what Ball State had with Ozzie Mann, the Cards now have at least a quarterback threat with Milas. The redshirt freshman is likely going to throw the ball 30-some times and he can be effective if he can hit around 18-24 of those passes. Yes, Edwards might be kept in check on the ground, but Milas likes going to Edwards through the air. Add in a fully healthy Jordan Williams and the Cards will out match NIU in their offense-defense match up.

Yes, Hare has been very smart, but turnovers can't be the focus for the BSU defense. The Cardinal defense must step up and get stops as well as a turnover or two. With those ten turnovers in the last two games and NIU's inability to move the ball for long periods vs EMU, Ball State's defense can do enough to give the Cardinals a victory.

Sam N: Milas versus the NIU secondary should be a big factor in the outcome of the game. Young QB, young secondary. Milas has a solid group of receivers too, so that should be a challenge for Marlon Moore, and the other freshman who rotate in at CB.

One person who can have a big impact for NIU would be Dechane Durante, it'd be great for him get an interception.

The biggest key for either side is how NIU's offense moves. If we get the tempo we are all used to seeing, the Huskies can run with this, if we see the offense that played against Eastern Michigan, Ball State will have a very good look at the dub.

At the end of the day I believe NIU's attack controls the result of the game, and that says a lot about how they are favored.

Sam B: Gotta agree with you about the NIU offense-BSU defense match up. It should decide this game.

In the end, I think the Cards do just enough in Muncie. Scott Secor kicks the second game winner of the year and Ball State wins 34-32. Let's see your prediction. What do you have for the score?

Sam N: Ha! A MAC game winning field goal? A little ambitious but hey it happened in Kent vs Ohio this year.

I believe that NIU grinds out a tough win in a well played game on both sides. Cam Stingily goes over 100 yards, Hare rushes for a TD. Would not be surprised if BSU wins, especially since it's a Scheumann. Score: Huskies 35, Cardinals 26

A win for NIU would make it 6 straight years with the Bronze Stalk trophy. A win for Ball State would just be their second during Bronze Stalk's existence. Either way I think the game adds some spice to a growing rivalry.