Ball State at Central Michigan
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 13, Kelly Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, 3 p.m. EDT.
Ball State looks to revive its bowl hopes and end a three-game losing streak to Central Michigan on Saturday when it faces the struggling Chippewas in a clash of West Division teams in the Mid-American Conference.
The Cardinals (2-4, 1-1 MAC West) were thwarted in their bid to take two wins from a three-game homestand following their 24-16 defeat to Northern Illinois last Saturday.
Ball State, which had won nine games combined the previous three seasons are looking to end a four-year bowl drought and avenge a 56-9 thrashing at home last year to the Chippewas (1-5, o-2 West), who are in danger of having a bowl appearance streak end at four years without a strong second half to the season.
Cards look to move past frustrating loss
Ball State came up short in its loss to Northern Illinois despite running 96 plays offensively.
The Cardinals, who were restricted to three field goals in the first three quarters, took advantage of an interception by Ray Wilborn for a short touchdown drive.
— #MACtion (@MACSports) October 6, 2018
They had one last chance down eight and got as far as the Huskies’ 35-yard line, but Riley Neal threw four straight incompletions — including a fourth-down pass that was batted down in the end zone as time expired.
“We had our opportunities; we simply didn’t make enough plays in critical situations to get a win,” Cardinals coach Mike Neu told the school’s official website. “When you’re playing against a team like that, every opportunity matters.”
Ball State is averaging 458.7 yards offensively in large part due to running 85.3 plays per game. Neal has thrown for 1,501 yards and eight touchdowns, but he also has completed just 57.6 percent of his passes as the Cardinals have averaged just 26.0 points and been held to 16 or less in three of their six games.
“We’re close, but close doesn’t really count,” Neu said. “We’ve got to make sure we take advantage of those opportunities when we have them.”
Wide receiver Riley Miller is enjoying a breakout season with 35 receptions for 504 yards, already bettering both his marks from last season. Corey Lacanaria and Justin Hall have also been consistent targets for Neal, combining for 62 catches, 571 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cardinals have lost three straight to the Chippewas after winning the previous five but the defeats in 2015 and 2016 were by a combined five points before last year’s 47-point thrashing.
Young Chips take lumps in loss to Buffalo
Central Michigan has lost back-to-back games since its lone victory over FCS school Maine but took a bigger step back after a respectable loss to then-No. 21 Michigan State with its 34-24 setback at home to Buffalo last weekend.
The Chippewas were gashed for 295 rushing yards, four off their season-worst, and continued a season-long trend of struggling in that part of the game. Discounting the win over Maine, Central Michigan has given up 1,150 rushing yards and 13 TDs on the ground while yielding 5.0 yards per carry.
“Obviously we’re disappointed as a team,” senior linebacker Alex Briones told the school’s official website. “We felt coming in we were the better team, but we made some mistakes in the first half. Any time you make mistakes and (commit) penalties like that and turn the ball over you’re not going to win many games, so just got to clean it up and once we clean it up we’re going to win games.”
Chippewas coach John Bonamego followed up on Briones’ thoughts on the lack of discipline as Central Michigan was whistled for 10 penalties, its most since a season-high 12 in the opener versus Kentucky.
Coach Bonamego breaks down the film and recaps Saturday's action on this week's episode of the Chippewa Rewind. Next game is at home against Ball State. Get your tickets here – https://t.co/hq3MjkyHmo #FireUpChips pic.twitter.com/gjGO6z1RaS
— CMU Football (@CMU_Football) October 8, 2018
There were also issues for Bonamego to address offensively as Central Michigan committed four turnovers — all interceptions by Tommy Lazzaro — marking the fifth consecutive game it had at least two.
Lazzaro did have a season-best 102 rushing yards while throwing for 117 and a touchdown, but he has been picked off eight times in his four starts and completed just 50.5 percent of his passes.
Central Michigan’s 1,619 total yards is second-worst among FBS teams which have played six games and 125th of 129 overall at this level. The 16 turnovers the Chips have committed is also tied for the most among FBS teams.
Central Michigan is:
- 1-5 ATS in its last six games as a home favorite.
- 1-3-1 ATS in its last five home games as a favorite between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
- 2-6 ATS in its last eight games vs. Ball State.
- The under is 5-0 in its last five games as a favorite between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
- The under is 8-2 in its last 10 games following a straight up home loss.
- The under is 4-0 in its last four home games as a favorite between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
Ball State is:
- 8-3 ATS in its last 11 road games vs. teams with a sub-.500 home record.
- 41-20 ATS in its last 61 games as a road underdog.
- 5-0 ATS in its last five road games vs. Central Michigan.
- The under is 6-1 in its last seven games.
- The under is 9-4 in its last 13 games as a road underdog.
- The under is 6-0 in its last six games as an underdog between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While both teams are struggling, it appears Central Michigan has far more issues to sort out on both sides of the ball compared to the Cardinals, whose biggest problem appears to be finishing off drives while running all those plays.
The Chippewas have also struggled all season moving the ball offensively while holding the ball barely more than 26 minutes per game. If that trend continues against Ball State’s up-tempo offense that likely will rack up about 90 plays, they will be absolutely gassed defensively by the fourth quarter. That should give the Cardinals the separation needed for a win in this game.
Prediction: Pick: Ball State +2
Full-Game Total Pick
Central Michigan has yet to prove itself effective offensively between its turnovers and lack of scoring. The Cardinals two biggest offensive performances came against an FCS school and a conference rival in Kent State which has given up 42.2 points per game against FBS teams.
While these teams have combined for 58 or more points in four of the previous six meetings, neither appear to have enough firepower, Ball State’s scheme aside, to get back there in this contest.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 54 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
Given the lack of consistency on offense for Central Michigan, Ball State should not only cover but win this game outright. The chance to get plus money on the moneyline is too good to pass up in this instance.
Prediction: Ball State +120
Half-Time Side Pick
Central Michigan has not scored a first-half touchdown in its last four games versus FBS opponents, and even when counting the win over Maine, the Chips have totaled just 19 first-half points in their last five contests. Ball State should be able to run past them in the first half.
Prediction: Pick: Ball State +1.5 (-110)
Half-Time Total Bet
That lack of offense for Central Michigan contributes to taking the under here. While the Cardinals do run plenty of plays, it does not always translate into points as they have been held to 10 or fewer in the first half in four of their last five contests.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 27.5 points (-115)
Half-Time Prop Prediction
Neither team has been especially proficient in the first half, so it would not be surprising to see single digits or a goose egg by either or both teams after the first 15 minutes.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 10.5 points 1st quarter (-110)