Akron (4-3) at Ball State (2-5) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scheumann Stadium (22,500) -- Muncie, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: Akron 3-1, Ball State 1-2. Away Record: Akron 1-2, Ball State 1-3. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, Ball State 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 2-1, Ball State 1-2. Series Record: Series tied, 10-10-1.
GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals put a stop to a five-game losing streak last weekend against Central Michigan, and now they'll look to string a pair of wins together as they host the Akron Zips in a Mid-American Conference battle at Scheumann Stadium.
Akron saw a three-game win streak come to an end last Saturday as the team was downed by intrastate rival Ohio, 23-20. The Zips were without the services of starting quarterback Kyle Pohl, who missed the contest due to an injury. Redshirt freshman Tommy Woodson got the start, and led the team in both passing and rushing.
Ball State was saved by place kicker Scott Secor Saturday on the road against the Chippewas. The Cardinals held a late-game lead, but Central Michigan was able to tie the score on a late touchdown and two-point conversion. With 17 seconds remaining in the contest, Secor hit a 55-yard field goal to lift the Cardinals to their first victory, 32-29, since a Week 1 win over FCS Colgate.
The two sides have met 21 times on the football field in their history, and have been as evenly matched as it gets. The all-time series between Ball State and Akron is tied up at 10-10-1, with the most recent contest going to Ball State, 42-24, last season.
Even though Pohl missed the game for the Zips last Saturday, Woodson performed admirably with 268 yards and a pair of touchdowns against two interceptions. He led the team in rushing with 44 yards on 12 carries - an uncharacteristic stat for the Zips, who average 125 rushing ypg behind stud backs Jawon Chisholm and Conor Hundley. Akron and Ohio traded punches throughout the game, and with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, Josiah Yazdani connected on a 22-yard field goal to lift the Bobcats to victory.
Pohl, who banged his head against the turf a few weeks ago against Miami-Ohio and has been forced to sit since, may be back this weekend at Ball State. But if he can't go, Woodson will get the start once again. Pohl leads a team that is averaging 266 passing ypg and 23.1 ppg with 1,289 passing yards and seven touchdown tosses against three interceptions. Woodson has completed 52 percent of his 98 pass attempts this season for 573 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Top receiver Zach D'Orazio has 39 catches for 450 yards and a score, while Mykel Traylor-Bennett owns a team-best four touchdown receptions.
Hundley and Chisholm have traded games this season in terms of effectiveness. Hundley leads the team with 335 rushing yards and a 6.1 ypc average, while Chisholm has 234 yards but a team high-tying three touchdowns. Cody Grice has even scored three times on the ground on just seven carries this season. The ineffectiveness of the run game last weekend may have played a role in the loss.
Akron defensively this season has been steady, and has limited opponents in the team's last four games to 23 points or fewer. Against ACC program Pittsburgh, the Zips surrendered just 10 points, and then held conference foes Eastern Michigan to six and Miami-Ohio to 19. The team is setting the example with an 18.1 ppg allowed statistic, and is holding the opposition to 357.6 total ypg.
Linebacker Jatavis Brown (team-leading 55 tackles) and defensive lineman Nordly Capri (23 tackles) have been dominant in opponents' backfield this season. Brown leads the team with 9.5 tackles for loss, and Capri has added 7.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Both players have recorded four sacks apiece in seven games played, and will be tasked with containing Ball State running back Jahwan Edwards. Defensive backs Kris Givens and Bre' Ford have two interceptions each, and will look to shut down Ball State quarterback Jack Milas this weekend.
Secor got most of the glory last weekend against Central Michigan with his game-winning and career-long field goal of 55 yards that lifted the Cardinals above the surging Chippewas. But it wasn't completely overlooked that Edwards became the school's all-time leading rusher with 4,013 yards, passing Marcus Merriweather (1999-2002) on the list. Edwards also added to his program- leading rushing touchdown total with two more scores against Central Michigan - both first-half touchdowns.
Edwards started the season slowly after being named to the All-MAC preseason team, but in his defense the offense in general struggled to get anything going while trying to recover from the loss of star quarterback Keith Wenning. But Edwards has found his mark, and has rushed for 707 yards and seven touchdowns through seven games played this season. He's helped his Cardinals to 151.7 rushing ypg and a 25.7 ppg total.
Milas was efficient yet again in his second consecutive start for Ball State, throwing for 198 yards and a touchdown - a 40-yard strike to KeVonn Mabon in the first quarter. Milas replaced Ozzie Mann under center, who struggled from time to time. In two games, Milas has thrown for 524 yards and five touchdowns against no interceptions. It's clear he likes throwing to Mabon, who has four touchdown catches this season and a team-leading 40 receptions for 482 yards. But Jordan Williams (318 yards, 3 TD) has been another viable target in the Ball State offense.
Stopping opponents on the defensive end has been a bit of a struggle for the Cardinals this season, who are averaging 27.4 ppg surrendered and 415.7 total offensive ypg through seven contests. In fact, Ball State hasn't contained an opponent to under 29 points in any of the team's last four outings. Akron, on the other hand, only averages 23.1 ppg this season, so it could be a match made in heaven for the Cardinals.
Linebacker Ben Ingle is the team's leader on the defensive side, and he's proven he can get the job done with a team-best 66 tackles through seven games. Since Woodson is a bit of a dual threat, he and lineman Darnell Smith (3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks) will have to be ready if Woodson gets the starting nod. Either way, both will want to keep an eye on Hundley and Chisholm, who are breakout candidates on any given gameday. Defensive back Eric Patterson has a team-best two interceptions and four pass breakups for the Cardinals.
As long as Edwards and Milas can move the ball offensively and put some points on the board, the Cardinals can be competitive in any game the rest of the way. Even if Pohl plays, the Zips haven't been known to put up a ton of points. With a more well-rounded roster, Akron is capable of going on the road and defeating the Cardinals with a strong defense. The Zips will really want to win this one with Bowling Green and Buffalo coming up on the schedule.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Akron 27, Ball State 23Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 25, 2 p.m. (ET)