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Riley Neal deserves to start against Northwestern Wildcats

After a pair of outstanding performances in the last two weeks, we ask: Is Riley Neal the replacement to Keith Wenning we have all been waiting for?

Andrew Mascharka (The Eastern Echo)

The Ball State Cardinals have a decision to make at quarterback after the last two weeks have shown that a newcomer might be the one for the job.

Although one can say (including myself) that starting Jack Milas last week was the right decision, it is now much easier to make the case for Riley Neal than it used to be.

Fans, being fans, have been trying to convince the coaches to make the switch since the third quarter versus Texas A&M. Ball State's small, but passionate section of Twitter was flooded with tweets that said it was time to give up on Milas. But is it even fair to make an assessment that strong this quickly? Is it really time to give up on the guy who was the number one all summer after just three weeks?

I've said it before: Milas played well versus VMI, and has struggled since. In hindsight, the switch at quarterback worked out well both times the coaching staff went through with it.

Milas has been pitiful over the last two weeks. 1-for-13 for three yards and a pick-six. The numbers are becoming so bad that it feels bad to put them out there for the public to view.

Neal threw 28 passes last week, while Milas fired just five. Riley missed fewer passes than Jack did. Milas was 0-for-5, while Neal was 24-for-28. It's pretty clear that Neal has outplayed Milas so far when he has been in, but is it time to give up on the ten-game starter?

If Ball State is to stay in the game versus a great Northwestern squad, they will need a spark to get them going on offense. With expectations for the Cards being somewhat low this week, head coach Pete Lembo really does not have much to lose by giving Riley Neal his first start.

It would get the fans to tune in by the masses, and it could allow the Cardinals to move the ball on the Wildcats like no other opponent has so far. We have seen Neal tear apart defenses that stayed strong versus the pass throughout his two appearances. A&M's defense held their ground versus a ranked Arizona State team, but Neal threw for 116 yards on the Aggies in just two quarters, as well as going for nearly 200 yards passing on an Eastern Michigan team that held Wyoming's number one quarterback to just a 3-for-13 day.

The time has come to give Riley Neal a full four quarters versus an outside College Football Playoff contender in Northwestern. His comeback versus the Eagles, along with his outstanding performance in College Station have proven that Neal should be given the chance to shine right from the start.

If things do not go as planned with Neal under center, it is never too late to give Milas another chance. I'm not saying that we should put Neal in command forever, but if Milas had three chances to go after opposing defenses from the start, then Neal deserves the same opportunity based off the way he has played.

Saturday, when the Cards take the field at Ryan Field, let us hope that Neal is under center on play one, and is given the chance to knock off the ranked Wildcats.

Ball State has all the tools to compete in the MAC West except at the quarterback spot. The offensive line, wide receivers and running backs are all set. It's time to allow Riley Neal a full showing to prove that he is that quarterback to put offense in sync.