Ball State (1-2) at Toledo (1-2) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Glass Bowl (26,248) -- Toledo, Ohio. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Ball State 1-1, Toledo 1-1. Away Record: Ball State 0-1, Toledo 0-1. Neutral Record: Ball State 0-0, Toledo 0-0. Conference Record: Ball State 0-0, Toledo 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 19-19-1.
GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals will attempt to bounce back from a tough loss to FCS opponent Indiana State, as they take on Mid-American Conference foe Toledo on the road at the Glass Bowl.
Ball State began the season on a high note, having little issue taking care of yet another FCS opponent in Colgate, 30-10. But the Cardinals dropped a close 17-13 contest to Iowa the following week, and then lost for the first time at home this season against the Sycamores, 27-20. It was the second consecutive week Ball State was defeated by a touchdown or less.
Toledo opened its season in a similar fashion, with a resounding win over an FCS opponent. The Rockets beat down New Hampshire. 54-20, but was on the other end of the stick the next two weeks, dropping 20-plus point losses to Missouri and Cincinnati, respectively.
These two MAC rivals have proved to be a pretty even matchup throughout the years, with each side taking 19 games in the all-time series, adding one tie into the mix.
Both Ball State and Indiana State were pretty evenly matched in terms of offense last weekend. The Cardinals accumulated 20 first downs in the contest to Indiana State's 19, and both squads racked up 361 yards of total offense. The difference was the Sycamores capitalized on more opportunities. Ball State quarterback Ozzie Mann was efficient, passing for 266 yards and a touchdown. In three games, Mann and the Cardinals are averaging 199.3 passing ypg and 21 ppg.
The running game has been fairly respectable as well, with Jahwan Edwards leading the way. Edwards was credited with 75 rushing yards and a touchdown against Indiana State, and has a team-leading 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground in three games.
Junior KeVonn Mabon has been the focal point for Mann in the passing game. Mabon has caught a team-best 22 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, while the next closest receiver has nine receptions for 124 yards.
It was the team's defense that faltered against the Sycamores Saturday. Indiana State quarterback Mike Perish was allowed to complete 25 passes for 317 yards and three scores without committing a turnover. It was the first time in three games this season that Ball State's defense allowed more than 17 points, but the team's record reflects the state of things. Opponents are averaging 265.3 passing ypg and 347.7 total ypg in three contests.
Safety Martez Hester led the Cardinals in the loss with nine tackles, while four other players registered six stops. Ball State put light pressure on Perish in last weekend's loss, recording two sacks and four tackles for loss. Linebacker Ben Ingle is the staple of the defense, leading the squad with 26 tackles this season. He adds a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry to his stat line.
Toledo's offense had a relatively successful day, if you just look at the fact that the Rockets put up 34 points against a typically solid defense - one that only allowed more than 31 points to opponents just twice all season in 2013. Toledo gained 563 yards of total offense against the Bearcats in the loss, and nearly outgained Cincinnati on the ground by 100 yards, 240-148. Kareem Hunt has been phenomenal in the backfield for the Rockets in three games, rushing for 385 yards and six touchdowns on 47 carries. He had 101 yards and a score in the loss to Cincy.
The passing game was pretty sturdy as well, as Logan Woodside connected for 322 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Through three contests, the Rockets are averaging 37.3 ppg and 313 passing ypg. Woodside, who is playing in relief of Phillip Ely (out for season with a torn ACL), is 33-of-50 passing for 374 yards and three touchdowns in two games played (with one start).
Corey Jones and Alonzo Russell were the go-to players for Woodside. Jones caught 11 passes for 93 yards and a score, while Russell managed five receptions for a team-best 114 yards and two touchdowns. Jones, Russell and Justin Olack lead the team with two touchdown catches apiece.
It's hard to win a game when a team's defense allows 584 total yards and six touchdown passes to a team that is playing its first game of the season. The Bearcats, who got two weeks off at the end of August/beginning of September, were alive and in mid-season form against Toledo, which has allowed 42.3 ppg through three games to opponents coming into the matchup with Ball State. Fortunately for the Rockets, the Cardinals don't have the offensive caliber of Cincinnati.
Defensive back DeJuan Rogers led the team with seven tackles against Cincinnati, and is third on the team this season with 18 total. Linebacker Junior Sylvestre tops the squad with 22 stops through three games, adding 1.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries to his resume. Defensive lineman Orion Jones has a team-best two sacks, and as a unit the Rockets have notched 17 tackles for loss.
The home advantage certainly helps, but in this case Toledo has the upper hand simply because its offense can produce more points in an average game than Ball State's can in an above average one. Despite allowing 42.3 ppg, Toledo's defense will right the ship now that conference play is starting up. But as long as Woodside and Hunt are active and on the same page, this can be one of the most dangerous offenses in the MAC.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 35, Ball State 19Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 20, 7 p.m. (ET)