Featured Video from Scott Reichel
Its time for some MACtion Saturday afternoon at 3:00 when the Ball State Cardinals play host the the visiting Eastern Michigan Eagles at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Ind.. Both squads come into this contest fresh off of close conference victories and with identical 4-3 records. Last week EMU survived a comeback scare to to edge Toledo 28-26 at home, while Ball State was the one doing the comebacking in their 24-23 win at Central Michigan . . .
Let us set the scene.
— Ball State Football (@BallStateFB) October 15, 2018
These two sides have been battling it out on the gridiron since 1936 with the Cardinals holding a 34-23-2 all-time advantage, but it is the Eagles that have won two straight in the series, including last season’s 56-14 route in Ypsilanti.
Do not Count Cardinals Out
Some said this was a make it or break it year for third-year coach Mike Neu who has not exactly lit it up in his first couple of years in Muncie. While expectations are not terribly high at Ball State, a few conference wins would not hurt, and while he already has two of them, the team is expected to be underdogs in every game they play the rest of the season, and certain websites still list him on the hot seat. The team had a promising start to the season, blowing out Central Connecticut State in the opener and falling by just eight points a week later in South Bend. Then came a four touchdown loss in Bloomington to the in-state Hoosiers and after beating lowly Kent State at home, they lost their following tilt with Northern Illinois, also at home. Their comeback victory over the Chippewas this past weekend was uplifting, but a quick look at the standings tells you the Cards had to rally to beat a team that is 1-6 overall and 0-3 in conference play.
The Cardinals run a spread offense and a base 3-4 defense but are not particularly strong in any three phases of the game on a consistent basis. The defense, led by linebacker Jaylin Thomas, widely considered the best player on the team, is occasionally opportunistic, but will need to step it up if the team hopes to pull out anymore victories in the second half of the season. FPI suggest that their strength is offense but those numbers are inflated a bit by blowout wins over CCSU and Kent. Their O is mostly based on a short passing game that is heavily relied upon due to the fact that their running game is rarely effective. They enter the contest against the Eagles averaging more than 50 yards per game than their opponent, but Eastern Michigan is still managing to verage two points per game more than BSU on the season.
Eagles Eager to get back to a Bowl
Eastern Michigan does not exactly have what you would call “tradition.” The team did go bowling in 2016, but before that their last bowl game was in 1987, and they also participated in the postseason in 1971. With that kind of history, it is hard to convince your players that they can be part of a winning side, but the Eagles could be just that. They have shown potential in recent years and this season they even beat a Big 10 team on the road when they upset Purdue in week two. Unfortunately for EMU, they dropped their next four contests, all by single digits. That is the thing about a losing tradition. You really do not have the confidence to win the close games. But win a close one they did last week, in a two-point victory at home against Toledo, but even then they had to survive a mad-dash comeback from the Rockets that fell just short in the end. The squad led 28-3 at the half but would never score again and if not for stopping a two-point conversion with 20 seconds to play, would have had to go to overtime.
EMU amassed 412 yards in last weekend’s victory and did not turn the ball over once. They lost the first down battle, but that often happens when you have the ball less than your opponent, which they did. The team is led by Iowa transfer Tyler Wiegers, who led the team to the big victory over the Boilermakers, but he has been splitting time of late with Mike Glass III, who was the leading passer against Toledo with 100 yards. The squad strength appears to lie in the secondary, which allows just 191.1 passing yards a game, and they will be going up against an offense that averages just 207.4 through the air. This signals a match-up problem for Ball State and could lead to their demise and propel the Eagles to a much-needed victory.
Ball State is:
- 6-16 ATS in their last 22 conference games.
- 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games following an ATS win.
- 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games in October.
Eastern Michigan is:
- 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games in October.
- 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
- 9-6-1 ATS in their last 26 road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While I have stated that Eastern Michigan has trouble winning close games, that is really more of a mentality issue that comes with a history of losing. The reality is, they did win one last week and earlier this year as well in their victory over Purdue. Besides, they probably will not have to worry about winning a close one this time out. If the Eagles can come into the state of Indiana and take care of the Boilermakers, then there is no reason to think that they cannot do the same against the Cardinals, who are about as inconsistent as they come.
Prediction: Pick: Eastern Michigan -3
Full-Game Total Pick
This game should be a defensive battle and that stats suggest the same. Each side should struggle to move the ball at times. If you look at the trends (I did, because they pay me to do so) you will see that there are literally zero trends for the over for either team in this match-up. Eastern Michigan has hit the under their last four times out, and Ball State has done is in seven of their last eight games. That combined with the fact that nobody is expecting fireworks here equates to an easy play for the Under.
Prediction: Under 51.5