Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

An absurdly premature assessment of the 2010 Cardinals.

Why they might look familiar: The ignominious owners of one of the most precipitous plummets in college football history! Ball State's recent misfortunes are all the more glaring when contrasted with their dreamy 2008 run. A 12-0 regular season that had alum David Letterman crowing and the Cardinals polishing their glass slippers came to an abrupt and puzzling conclusion in December, when they were waylaid by Buffalo, 42-24, in the MAC Championship game. A January meeting with Tulsa went even worse, where the Cards sustained a 45-13 beating in the GMAC Bowl.

Ball State is not new to postseason woes. The team has an 0-5 all-time bowl record, and the last two losses have been blowouts: The team went to Mobile in '09 hoping to shake the memory of a 52-30 International Bowl loss to Rutgers in '08.

Previously on: 2009 was, quite frankly, a horrorshow. An inauspicious start to the season, with back-to-back losses to North Texas and New Hampshire (New Hampshire?!) led to a 2-10 season, and the Cards were only saved from a dead-last finish in the MAC by virtue of not being winless Eastern Michigan. Letterman wept (probably), and Stan Parrish's job security was questioned, albeit mildly and rather hopelessly.

Getting the wins out of the way first: The nicest thing we can say about Ball State is that they seem to have the lesser directional Michigans' numbers. A 29-27 "victory" at Eastern Michigan in October lends agreeable symmetry to the 22-17 season-ending win at Western Michigan. As to the losses, well, there were ten of them. And the girthy "L" column wasn't without its share of hearbreakers: Six games there were decided by a touchdown or less.

An accusatory collection of triple-digit rankings point out the more glaring weaknesses of Ball State: The team finished 114th nationally in total offense, 115th in rushing offense, 108th in scoring, 103rd in turnover margin, 117th in pass efficiency, and 106th in sacks.

Encounters in the wild: The Cards do get a pair of embarassingly puffy profiteroles on which to cut their teeth: Visits from Southeast Missouri State and Liberty open the year. This halcyon period will be immediately followed, however, by back-to-back road dates at Purdue and Iowa. We can't muster a hint of sympathy for this, because Southeast Missouri State.

Stock characters: MiQuale Lewis is the obvious and obviously deserving star here, back for a sixth year of eligibility to the tangible relief of all involved. He rushed for over 1700 yards in 2008, compared to "only" 871 last season, and will be running behind a line that returns all five starters. A three-way race for starting QB is underway between a true freshman, a redshirt freshman, and a sophomore. The latter, Kelly Page, started most of last year but missed the last five games with a broken throwing thumb and subsequent hand surgery. Whoever wins out under center will have last season's top three receivers to pick from, led by Briggs Orbson. Without some drastic upticks in offensive acumen, however, the scoring hopes of the team will once again rest on senior Ian McGarvey, their top-ten ranked kicker who led the conference in field goals in '09.

Across the line, the team's top two tacklers return at weakside linebacker (Davyd Jones) and middle linebacker (Travis Freeman). Robert Eddins, team leader in tackles for loss, holds down the fort at defensive end, and the secondary is led by interception-happy free safety Sean Baker.

Prognosis: Mid-Major Mondays won't return until August, so it's probably too soon to start calling Stan Parrish a "nice guy," but there seems to be a tacit understanding in the community that he is not a very good football coach. Ball State's schedule, however, is a veritable cakewalk.They don't draw any of the top three teams to play out of the MAC East this year, and they do have those soft opening dates, so let's double it up and call for four wins.

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Previous Absurdly Premature Assessments (alphabetically by team): Akron ... Arkansas State ... Army ... Boston College ... Central Michigan ... Clemson ... Colorado State ... Connecticut ... East Carolina ... Florida Atlantic ... Florida State ... Fresno State ... Georgia ... Hawaii ... Houston ... Iowa ... Kansas State ... Kentucky ... Louisiana Tech ... LSU ... Marshall ... MemphisMiddle Tennessee State ... MissouriNevada ... North Texas ... Oregon State ... PittsburghSan Diego State ... Stanford ... UAB ... UCLA ... UTEP.

Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.

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