Ball State must respond against Northern Illinois

Good afternoon to you … I hope your weekend is off to a good start. Another Saturday full of college football is on tap, so without furtherĀ interruption, let’s get started on some Ball State thoughts as it awaits a very important matchup against Northern Illinois.

After suffering an ugly, heartbreaking 45-43 loss to Mid-American Conference East division foe Kent State at Dix Stadium last weekend, Ball State needs to respond this afternoon against a feisty and much-improved Northern Illinois squad. This game shouldn’t disappoint, either. Both Ball State and Northern Illinois are in the top echelon of the MAC in offensive production. The likelihood of a shootout is probable with these two explosive offenses.

Through five games, Ball State averages 35.8 points per game and NIU averages 35.6 per contest. Ball State is second in the conference in total yards per game, with an astounding average of 477.2. Ball State trails only Akron (492.4 yards per contest) in that category.

Make no mistake, NIU will be no easy task for Ball State. NIU is first in the conference in rushing yards (1,160) and 17th in the nation with an average of 232 yards per game. As news broke earlier in the week of coach Pete Lembo deciding to go with a nickel defensive scheme against NIU, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Jay Bateman will operate with cornerback Armond Dehaney and strong safety J.C. Wade among the three inactives for Ball State. Last week against Kent State, we saw Ball State get burned on virtually every blitz it ran. And in order for Ball State to contain NIU’s running attack, it may need to stack some extra bodies in the box. But, with the absence of Dehaney and Wade, Bateman could opt to use double coverage and disguise his schemes.

Another concern I have is the health of guard Kit O’Brien, who has been dealing with a lingering ankle sprain and is listed as questionable for today’s game. O’Brien is a key part of the Ball State offense, most notably the run game. He’s one reason why Ball State is among the top programs in the country in rushing offense.

Stealing a victory over NIU is crucial for Ball State. It would instill a great deal of confidence in this group and put it back on track in the Western division.

As always, thanks for reading …