Ball State will head into hostile grounds this weekend as the Cardinals aim to challenge no. 16 Texas A&M away from home Saturday night.
After handling FCS opponent VMI last weekend, the Cardinals will have to remain on top of their game to compete against a Texas A&M squad that rolled over preseason playoff contender and previously ranked Arizona State over the course of college football's first weekend.
The now-ranked Aggies, led by veteran Head Coach Kevin Sumlin and quarterback Kyle Allen, are poised to be a competitor in the SEC West this season. Already having posted large tally against one of the west coast's most talented defenses, A&M is aiming at using it's arial assault and bashing ground attack to boost itself forward.
Ball State opened 2015 with a win over VMI that saw the Cardinal offense deliver in all aspects. Ball State scored five times on the ground, but also saw quarterback Jack Milas throw for a career-high in attempts, completions, and yards. It's quite obvious that the defense Ball State will see this coming weekend will be more adept to slowing offenses down. Texas A&M allowed just over three hundred yards to Arizona State in week one. The A&M defense also forced two fumbles that ended up leading to scores.
Jack Milas was on target early and often against VMI. After starting 8-8, Milas cooled but kept a high passer rating as Ball State's offense looked fluid through the air as well as on the ground. Tailback Darian Green had the best performance of his career; one that he and the other Cardinal backfield players will need to replicate to put stress on the Aggie defense. The will be the first start for Milas against a Power-5 opponent, as Ozzie Mann was still BSU's signal caller one year ago when Ball State traveled to Iowa.
Defensively, Ball State will have to perform at a high level to keep pace with the Aggie offense. Texas A&M used a balanced attack to gain over four hundred yards of total offense agains the Sun Devils. The Ball State defense will have to highlight Allen's ability to throw the long ball, as well as the speed of A&M's wide receivers. Both of these factors proved difficult in BSU's opening game against VMI, as the Cardinals were beaten deep twice by the Keydets. Texas A&M sophomore wideout Speedy Noil may be the fastest person on the field come Saturday, and will be one focus of the Ball State secondary.
In its first game, Texas A&M surpassed four hundred yards of total offense against Arizona State, converting 22 first downs and putting 38 points on the board. The Ball State defense must be weary of A&M's spread attack as VMI's gave the Cardinal's trouble from the spread during week one. Lots of responsibility will rest on the shoulders of BSU's secondary when Saturday rolls around. The Cardinals will certainly have to perform better than they did en route to allowing 36 points to VMI, who doesn't keep pace with a high-powered SEC offense such as A&M's. The SEC-West member grounded it's way to 178 yards rushing when paired against a Pac 12 defense that was near the top of the country in defending the run a year ago. It should be noted that 69 of those rushing yards came from quarterback Kyler Murray, who started the game for Texas A&M before being replaced by Allen.
Kyle Field sits over 83,000 fans, most if not all of which will be supporting the Aggies. This will be the largest stadium, based on the number of seats, that Ball State has competed in since traveling to Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2009. The Cardinals lost that game 54-30.
Kickoff in College Station is set for Satuday, September 12th, at 7:00pm EST. The game will be aired on ESPNU.