Ball State's Strengths:
" Ball State ranked in the top 35 nationally in 2007 in five different categories; turnover margin (4th), passing offense (22nd), passing efficiency (24th), net punting (29th) and total offense (31st). The Ball State trigger-man of that potent offense is Nate Davis who had an amazing sophomore season in 2007 tossing 30 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions in his 478 pass attempts.
" The entire receiving corps returns. This is a group that propelled BSU to be the #1 passing offense in the MAC last year and their numbers should only be better in 2008. Dante Love is one of the most special and diverse players in the MAC. Love produced nearly 1,400 receiving yards while adding 203 more rushing with eleven touchdowns in 2007. Love led the MAC last year in three categories; receptions per game (7.7), receiving yards per game (107.5) and all-purpose yards (207).
" Chris Miller was third in the country last year averaging 45.4 yards per punt last season. He is a legitimate All-American Candidate.
" The Cardinals return the premier tight-end in the MAC in Darius Hill. Hill averaged 71-yards per game and scored 11 TDs last season.
Ball State's Weaknesses:
" After ranking 106th in the nation in rush defense, much improvement is needed along the defensive front line. This may be difficult since the two-deep defensive line averages less than 260 pounds per man.
" As good as the offensive line has been, they will need to be much more consistent in run-blocking, especially late in the game to run time off of the clock in close games.
" Andre Ramsey, Dan Gerberry and Robert Brewster are each three year starters that form a solid nucleus along the offensive line as the Cardinals offensive line has the potential to be one of the MAC's best.
" Ball Stated was tied for 4th nationally (with East Carolina) in turnover margin at +1.31. Coach Brady Hoke's teams always seem to take care of the ball.
" Two seasons ago this unit was a concern but now this linebacking corps has become the strength of the defense as six letter-winners return. Bryant Haines is the leader of this group after earning second team all-conference honors and accounting for 125 total tackles last season.
Ball State's Threats:
" MiQuale Lewis returns as the starter after averaging nearly 5-yards per carry during an injury-riddled 2007 season. When healthy, he is capable of consistently leading the ground attack for the Cardinals. Frank Edmonds is a good backup and the teams leading returning rusher, but had only 552 yards a season ago.
" The defense did make strides last season but still has a long way to go if the 'Cards are to win the MAC or beat a school from a BCS conference, which is something they have never done.
The Big Game(s) for Ball State:
The Cardinals close the season with their "big games;" November 19th at Central Michigan and November 25 hosting Western Michigan. Those are the top two teams in the MAC (along with BSU). Winning both of those contests will put them into the MAC Title Game while splitting would put a serious challenge into their title-game hopes.
Final Analysis of Ball State for 2008:
Ball State took a major step forward in 2007 transcending their football program from an afterthought in the MAC to becoming a championship contender. The Cardinals went to a bowl game for the first time since 1996 and returns ten starters on offense that averaged 31-points per game. For the first time in several seasons, Ball State plays a manageable non-conference schedule. Gone are the likes of Missouri, Clemson, Pitt, Boston College, Purdue, Iowa, Auburn, Nebraska and Illinois. The 2008 non-conference slate of Northeastern, Navy, Indiana and Western Kentucky makes it conceivable for Ball State to approach double-digits in the win column and actually have a realistic shot at a Top 25 ranking by seasons end, along with the MAC Championship.
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The owner of VanDelaySports.com, Nick Gerogosian is the author of the 2008 Ball State football preview as well as the weekly "Nick's Picks" column where he makes his picks for every MAC football game throughout the season. Nick's annual MAC football recruiting report is widely-regarded as the top publication of it's kind for the Mid-American Conference.
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