The Massachusetts Minutemen (1-6, 0-3) will travel to the Midwest as they take on the Ball State Cardinals (2-6, 1-3) in a Mid-American Conference matchup Saturday afternoon. Massachusetts took the only meeting between the two teams with a 24-10 victory on November 12, 2014 at home as a 3 point favorite.
Massachusetts lost their third straight as they were outgunned 51-35 by #19 Toledo at home last week. Ball State dropped their fifth straight contest as they were knocked off 23-21 by Central Michigan at home. Kickoff from Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Indiana is scheduled for 1:00 pm ET and will be televised on ESPN3. Ball State is currently a 2.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 66.5 points.
Massachusetts led Toledo 28-10 at the half only to get outscored 41-10 after intermission to lose to the undefeated Rockets. The Minutemen were outgained 620-388 in the contest to negate the fact that they forced three takeaways while committing just one turnover. Massachusetts was worn down in the second half as Toledo won the first down battle 33-19 and held the ball for 36:58 to Toledo’s 23:02 in the game. Three of Massachusetts’s first half touchdown drives started at the 50 yard line or the Toledo side of the field.
The Minutemen do plenty of damage through the air as they are averaging 315 yards per game (17th in the nation) but they are putting up only 105.1 yards a game (120th in the nation) on the ground while averaging 3.9 yards per carry. The Minutemen are putting up 24 points per game but they are a sieve defensively as they allow 39.6 points per contest, which is 120th in the country. Blake Frohnapfel has completed 179 of 309 passes for 2,034 yards with 14 touchdowns and six picks; Ross Comis has hit 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and two scores in relief. Marquis Young is the team’s leading rusher with 48 carries for 371 yards and two scores while Jamal Wilson chips in 38 carries for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Tajae Sharpe, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, has reeled in a team high 77 passes for 897 yards and four scores on the year. Marken Michel is next in line for the Minutemen with 29 grabs for 352 yards and four touchdowns while Wilson has added 19 catches out of the backfield. Three kickers for the Minutemen have banged through 21 of 23 extra points and four of six field goals this season.
Ball State led 14-10 at the half only to have their offense go cold in the second half of the contest. The Cardinals were outgained 434-299 and gave up 20 first downs to their 17 in the game. Ball State forced two turnovers while committing only one and scored on an 89 yard kick return with 10:24 to play to cut their deficit to 2 points but couldn’t get the go-ahead score. The Cardinals couldn’t come up with enough stops to win the game as Central Michigan controlled time of possession by a 36:42 to 23:18 margin.
The Cardinals are averaging 233.1 yards per game through the air (61st in the nation) and an additional 166.3 yards a contest (72nd in the nation) on the ground. Ball State is putting up 26 points per game on the board but they have leaks defensively as they give up 33.8 points a game, which is 103rd in the nation as far as scoring defense goes. Riley Neal has sparked the offense as he has completed 156 of 260 passes for 1,522 yards with 11 touchdowns and two picks while adding 292 yards and a score on the ground. He has supplanted Jack Milas (35 of 65, 343 yards, TD, 2 INT) at quarterback it seems. Darian Green is the leader on the ground with 102 carries for 559 yards and four scores while James Gilbert is the second back in the system with 91 carries for 394 yards and seven scores. Jordan Williams is the team’s leading receiver with 52 catches for 693 yards and five touchdowns while KeVonn Mabon (43 grabs, 386 yards, TD) and Corey Lacanaria (39 catches, 319 yards, 2 TD) are excellent options for Neal to look for in the passing game as well. Morgan Hagee has connected on 23 of 24 extra points and 12 of 16 field goals with a long of 43 yards.
Massachusetts is 7-2 ATS in their last nine after allowing at least 40 points and 6-2 ATS in their last eight after allowing at least 200 yards on the ground. Ball State is 3-7 ATS in their last 10 on fieldturf, 1-5 ATS in their last six at home and 1-6 ATS in their last seven against teams with a losing record.
The Minutemen have struggled at times this season but they have plenty of weapons in the passing game to work with, which can make things a struggle for opposing defenses. Ball State has had problems on both sides of the ball and they can’t make key plays when they need to. The Minutemen get the edge here based on their prolific offensive attack; take the points here.