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Ball State preview.

Ball State Cardinals
2007 record: 5-4
2007 Sagarin: 71 (IU is #77)
2006 record: 5-7
2006 Sagarin: 98
Series: IU leads 3-0
Last IU win: 2006 (24-23 in Muncie)
Last Ball State win: never
Last IU win in Bloomington: 1999 (21-9)
As I noted before the season, IU's record against the MAC is remarkably good. IU last lost to a MAC school in 1977 (Miami). From 1978 to present, all Big Ten schools other than Michigan, Ohio State, and IU have lost to the MAC. I bring this up at the beginning of each football season, but with some trepidation. OSU and Michigan are great programs with five star talent at nearly every position, but there's no rational explanation for why IU is on a 30-year MAC winning streak yet Joe Tiller has lost to MAC schools twice during his successful tenure at Purdue. My only guess, as posited in the post linked above:
One theory I have tossed around is that in the typical MAC-Big Ten matchup, the MAC team has nothing to lose and the Big Ten team may be a bit casual about the whole thing. When a MAC team sees IU on the schedule, that game is automatically circled ("If Toledo can beat Penn State, we should beat Indiana by 40!"). When oddsmakers and sportswriters see an IU-MAC game on the schedule, it's an instant "upset special." IU's games against the MAC may turn the tables: the MAC team may be overconfident, and IU, the nominal favorite, ends up with a chip on its shoulder. (enough sportswriter cliches in there for you? It's a half-baked theory, I know).
I'm a little nervous that no one seems to be picking Ball State in this game. However fortunate IU has been against the MAC, Ball State is the flip side of the coin. Despite some solid teams and close calls, BSU is one of the few MAC schools without a BCS conference scalp. As I did for IU's two other MAC opponents, Western Michigan and Akron, here's a look at Ball State's record against BCS conference opponents (not counting wins against teams such as Connecticut in their pre-BCS days):
Auburn: 0-2 (2001, 2005)
Boston College: 0-3 (2003-05)
Clemson: 0-2 (1992, 2002)
Florida: 0-1 (2000)
Illinois: 0-1 (2007)
Indiana: 0-3 (1997, 1999, 2006)
Iowa: 0-1 (2005)
Iowa State: 0-1 (1998)
Kansas: 0-2 (1992, 1996)
Kansas State: 0-1 (2000)
Kentucky: 0-1 (2001)
Michigan: 0-1 (2006)
Minnesota: 0-2 (1995, 1996)
Missouri: 0-3 (2002-04)
Nebraska: 0-1 (2007)
Pitt: 0-1 (2003)
Purdue: 0-7 (1985-86; 1994-95; 1997, 2004, 2006)
Rutgers: 0-0-1 (1989, 31-31 at Rutgers)
South Carolina: 0-1 (1998)
Syracuse: 0-1 (1993)
Washington State: 0-1 (1984)
West Virginia: 0-2 (1989, 1994)
Wisconsin: 0-3 (1987, 1990, 1999)
By my count, that's 0-41-1. The Cardinals' closest calls have been against Boston College (19-14 loss in Muncie in 2004); IU (24-23 in Muncie last year); Kentucky (28-20 road loss in 2001); Michigan (34-28 road loss in 2006); 26-23 at Minnesota in 1996; Nebraska (41-40 a couple of weeks ago); 16-14 at Washington State in 1984; and 16-14 at West Virginia in 1994. It is noteworthy that Ball State has been competitive in all games against BCS conference teams in the last two seasons. In 2006, BSU lost to IU by 1, at Purdue by 10, and at Michigan by 8. This season, the Cards have lost at Nebraska by 1 and at Illinois by 11.
So, who are these Cardinals? They have an explosive offense, let by QB Nate Davis. Although his completion percentage (55 percent) isn't overwhelming, everything else is (276 yards per game, 21TD/4INT). He has been sacked 14 times but still has managed a new of 209 rushing yards. Frank Edmonds (451 yards, 4.0 per) and MiQuale Lewis (447 yards, 4.9 per) lead the rushing attack, while Dante Love (59/789, 7 TD) and Darius Hill (44/655, 7TD) lead the receiving corps.
The team stats are fairly comparable. Both teams average about 32 points per game offensively; BSU averages 439 yards per game to 391; both teams produce more with the pass than the run. Defensively, Ball State allows 431 yards per game and 26.3 points. The Cards lead the MAC with 14 interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. Ball State allows 5.3 yards per carry and 227 yards per game. Opponents have completed 66 percent of their passes against Ball State for over 200 yards per game, but again, only 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. IU is allowing 27 points per game and 391 yards per game. The Hoosiers have 12 interceptions and are allowing 4.0 yards per rush for about 178 yards a game. IU allows a 59.6 completion percentage and over 200 yards a game, and has given up 14 TDs to 12 INT. Ball State has only 15 sacks, as compared to IU's 36, slowing down but still #2 nationally. As noted above, the computer rankings now favor Ball State, however slightly.
The good news for IU fans is that Ball State doesn't much resemble the teams that have defeated IU. Illinois, MSU, Penn State, and Wisconsin won by running down our throats, by pressuring Kellen Lewis, and by stopping us from developing any traditional running game. Those would not appear to be Ball State's strengths. On the other hand, this may be the most wide open, explosive offense that IU has faced. It should be interesting, and unlike any IU game this season.