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October 18, 2013

Staff Predictions: Ball State

Western Michigan faces a real challenge today in their search for the first win of 2013. Ball State has momentum headed into this tilt at Waldo Stadium, and WMU is still just trying to piece things together. If WMU could pull this one off, it'd replace CMU's shocker over Ohio last week as the biggest upset to date in MAC play.

David James: It's just not easy to see much to like going into this matchup right now. Ball State brings in a high-octane offense and a defense that, while somewhat vulnerable against the run, has been above-average overall by MAC standards. It's not easy to envision WMU's often anemic offense keeping up.

With that said, I do hold Buffalo's defense in a bit of a higher regard, so I'm not expecting another shutout like last time out. WMU should be able to grind out some yards on the ground, and Zach Terrell showed enough flashes last week that if he takes a step forward, this offense will make a few things happen.

Ball State, meanwhile, is going to be hard to stop for anyone. Virginia found that out the hard way when they brought in a highly ranked defense and the Cardinals shredded them for 48 points in a surprisingly easy win. WMU's pass defense actually leads the MAC in yards per game, making this a sneakily interesting matchup as Keith Wenning has topped 300 yards in every outing thus far while WMU gives up just 163 per game. My suspicion is that, while Wenning may not quite reach 300 yards, it also won't matter a whole lot as the Cardinals have enough on the ground to keep the WMU secondary off balance and keep the chains moving.

Ball State 34, Western Michigan 13

D.J. Duckett: Coming off such an embarrassing loss at home on homecoming, it's hard to imagine the Broncos will turn things around this week. Ball State brings a high powered offense, led by Keith Wenning and Willie Snead, that is sure to put the WMU secondary to the test. Wenning has thrown for more than 300 yards every game this season, so stopping them is not an option.

The Western Michigan secondary, led by Donald Celiscar, has played well this season considering the results. Celiscar will draw arguably his toughest test of the season as he will be given the task of stopping Snead, who is averaging over 17 yards a reception, and already has more than 50 catches this year.

The spread may only be twenty points, but after seeing what Buffalo was able to do to this Broncos team on their own turf, it is hard to see the game being that close. I have yet to see anything that would suggest that the Broncos will turn things around. Until that happens, the losing will continue.

Ball State 38, Western Michigan 14

Brian Persky: Western Michigan's league-leading secondary will be put to the test this week as the Broncos look to slow down Keith Wenning and the red-hot Ball State passing attack. Defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham will have his hands full trying to put a game-plan together around Ball State's many weapons such as Willie Snead, Jordan Williams, Zane Fakes, and Jamill Smith. The Cardinals' offense won't be stopped, but the key will be to execute a "bend-but-don't break" mentality and to of course force turnovers.

However, the game-planning won't end there for Pinkham and the Broncos defense. The difference in this game -- as has been the case for most games throughout this season for Ball State -- is Jahwan Edwards, who I think is a top three running back in the Mid-American Conference.

Of course it goes without saying that the Broncos will need to put a lot of points up on the board if they want to even be competitive in this game. And as we know, that's been an issue for them all season. Ball State can be somewhat vulnerable on the ground, and the only way to beat the Cardinals is to keep the ball out of Keith Wenning's hands as much as possible and win the time of possession battle. I do expect a heavier than usual dose of the run game from Kirk Ciarrocca this week, but ultimately it doesn't have that big of an impact except maybe a lower score.

Ball State 38, Western Michigan 10

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