We've known about the non-conference opponents for a while, but last week the MAC announced the conference matchups and schedule for the 2015 season.
But before we break down each opponent for 2015, let's take a look at who the Cards are bringing back, and what's the overall outlook in what is expected to be a rebound year.
The Ball State Cardinals will be missing their all-time leading rusher, Jahwan Edwards and strong safety Brian Jones, who played in 11 games last year and recorded 51 tackles, a drop off from his 2013 season where he played in all 13 games and racked up 97 tackles. Nick Miles will also be another face missed on the defensive side of the ball, as the defensive end had 10 sacks in his career at BSU. But, the biggest missing piece on the defensive side will undoubtedly be cornerback Eric Patterson, who had 49 tackles to go along with three picks and a sack in nine games last season. Patterson also had 590 kick return yards, and the year before last, Patterson played in 12 of Ball State's 13 games and had 63 tackles.
Other graduating players include OL P.J. Scott, who played in 23 games in two seasons and outstanding place kicker Scott Secor. Secor scored a total of 226 points over his carrer, knocking home 94 PATs and 44 field goals.
Besides for Edwards, the offense doesn't lose that much ground. Sophomore Jack Milas will likely be the starter, although fellow sophomore and five-game starter Ozzie Mann could make a run at the starting spot over the offseason. Horactio Banks is more than able to fill the large shoes Edwards left at the running back spot as well. Last season was the first season Banks failed to run for more than 500 yards, but he will be man from the get-go to help guide whatever young quarterback is taking snaps next year.
A few more players are lost on defense, but nothing that Pete Lembo's squad shouldn't be able to overcome. Players like senior defensive end Michael Ayers and linebacker Avery Bradley will be the leadership on defense.
With all that out of the way, let's take a closer look at all of BSU's 2015 opponents.
9/3/15 (Thursday) vs. VMI Keydets
This is the FCS game that a large number of fans usually overlook. But, last year that mindset proved lethal, as the Cards dropped a "rivalry game" and a very dusty Victory Bell to Indiana State for the first time since 1987. Last season, VMI finished 2-10 overall and 1-6 in the Southern Conference. The Keydets played Bowling Green last year, the two team's only similar opponent, which ended in a 48-7 loss for VMI. Anyways, don't overlook this game, but you shouldn't be too worried about it, either.
9/12/15 @ Texas A&M Aggies
Remember when Kenny Hill made Johnny Manziel look like any ol' quarterback versus South Carolina on opening night last year? Well, those days are over for the Aggies. Kevin Sumlin's squad isn't even starting Kenny Hill any more after he lost three straight SEC games in the middle of the season. Kyle Allen made his first start versus Louisiana-Monroe, where A&M barely survived a middling Sun Belt team. Ouch. Somehow, though, they beat third-ranked Auburn a week later. Don't ask me how, they just did. Finish off the season with losses to Mizzou and LSU, add in a bowl victory over West Virginia and you get a team that should be at least a little better next season. Overall, Ball State doesn't stack up in many places well versus a team as strong as the Aggies. Expect the defense to keep it close for 2-3 quarters before A&M pulls away for good.
Ball State Cardinals 2015 National Signing Day Recap
Lembo brings in 24 in this year's signing class, including a quarterback that could see some early playing time.
9/19/15 @ Eastern Michigan Eagles
Last season, the taste of MAC play came versus Toledo, this year Ball State will take on EMU in the early weeks of 2015. Eastern had a new coach last season in Chris Creighton, who led the Eagles to 2-10 year, and what will likely be a long rebuild process (Brings up a good point: How can you rebuild something that was never built?). Last year, Ball State outlasted Eastern 45-30 in what was a rout before Eastern added two late scores. No matter who ends up taking snaps for EMU, I can't see the Cards losing this one (unless Bell does to BSU what he did to Buffalo).
9/26/15 @ Northwestern Wildcats
For the second straight season, Northwestern will take on a MAC team in Evanston. Although the Cards aren't the 2014 NIU Huskies, Ball State will still likely cause quite some trouble. This one is hard to predict as Ball State really does have a chance to win this one considering the fact that the Wildcats have trouble with teams below their skill level. Take losses to Cal, NIU, Michigan and Illinois as examples that Northwestern could easily look over this game, while Ball State circles it on the calendar as a chance to make a statement versus a P5 team.
10/3/15 vs. Toledo Rockets
Alabama transfer Phillip Ely will be back taking snaps for Toledo after suffering an knee injury early last season. With little real game experience, it's hard to figure out how Toledo will do with their new man fully healthy. Last year, Ball State kept it close but couldn't make enough stops and Toledo was able to run the clock out on a rain-soaked Saturday night. This season, the Rockets still have the superior talent, but that doesn't mean BSU could pull off the upset. With it being homecoming, there's sure to be a big crowd, one that might be loud enough to tip the scales in Ball State's favor.
10/10/15 @ Northern Illinois Huskies
Let's be honest here. This will, one again, be a very, very good NIU team. Although BSU might be on the outside looking in when it comes to the MAC West race, the Cards can play spoiler here, something that tastes so much sweeter considering the rivalry. With Drew Hare still taking the snaps, expect a NIU victory.
10/17/15 vs. Georgia State Panthers
So, the schedule lightens up a little bit with Georgia State coming to Muncie. Trent Miles' team has struggled since being founded in 2011, and on the FBS level by 2013. So far, GSU has no wins versus FBS opponents, and only one victory since 2013, a close victory versus Abilene Christian back in August. Don't expect Georgia State to bag their first win when they come to Indiana, it's just not happening.
10/24/15 vs. Central Michigan Chippewas
The second game in the middle of the season homestand is versus the basically Bahamas Bowl Champs Central Michigan. The Chips and the Cards will probably be playing this one to see who gets fourth in the MAC West, as Toledo, WMU and NIU are the favorites. Anyways, bringing in the fact that all these teams have to play each other and could split the matchups, this game could have a huge toll on who goes to Detroit. We'll have to wait and see how it all works out.
10/24/15 vs. UMass Minutemen
This will be a better UMass team next season, one that if they can put all the pieces together, might be able to compete for a bowl bid or MAC East title. Blake Frohnapfel will be back under center for UMass, and if they can find a kicker, they might just be alright. I expect the Cards to take revenge for last year's loss and squeak out a close victory.
11/5/15 (Thursday) @ Western Michigan Broncos
We know how explosive Jarvion Franklin is, but just how good will this WMU team be next season? Likely good enough to compete for a MAC title. Franklin is the cornerstone for a team that expects to compete for a conference championship and likely lead PJ Fleck into the world of P5 football. Brandon Fitzsimmons has already wrote his side's preview for 2015 here.
11/17/15 (Tuesday) @ Ohio Bobcats
With the season coming to a close, both of these sides will likely be outside their division races, but in the chase for a bowl bid. That will make this game crucial going into the final week of play. Whoever wins is likely in line for the MAC's last bowl slot.
11/24/15 (Tuesday) @ Bowling Green Falcons
Dino Babers side will probably have a lot more to play for on the final week of this season than the last. This year, the MAC East championship will probably still be up for grabs when the final week of play comes around. That means Ball State will have to put out something big to knock off the championship hopeful Falcons. Expect it to stay close until BG pulls away in the fourth.
With the Cards not losing much outside Patterson, Secor and Edwards, things are looking bright for a team that will look to develop KeVonn Mabon and Jordan Williams into stars at the wide out position. Every day we're getting closer to football season.
Keep holding out hope and stay warm; football season will be here before we know it.