Eastern Michigan at Ball State
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 20, Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, Ind., 3 p.m. EDT.
Ball State makes its second bid to get back to .500 on the season Saturday when it hosts Eastern Michigan in a clash of West Division teams from the Mid-American Conference.
The Cardinals (3-4, 2-1 MAC West) has not been at .500 since a 24-16 loss at then-No. 8 Notre Dame on Sept. 8 dropped them to 1-1. They rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit at Central Michigan last Saturday, winning 24-23 on Morgan Hagee‘s 36-yard field goal with 47 seconds to play.
Eastern Michigan (3-4, 1-3) is also trying to reach the break-even mark and win back-to-back games. The Eagles barely overcame the absence of injured quarterback Mike Glass in the second half, squandering almost all of a 28-3 halftime lead before escaping with a 28-26 win.
Eagles hoping QB Glass will be available
Glass made the most of his first collegiate start at quarterback, accounting for 225 total yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns in helping Eastern Michigan race to a 28-3 halftime lead last weekend versus Toledo.
— Eastern Michigan Football (@EMUFB) October 13, 2018
But it took a pass break-up by Freddie McGee III on a two-point conversion in the final minute to preserve the victory, otherwise the Eagles could have been facing overtime and a potential 12th defeat in a one-possession game since the start of last season.
The Eagles finished with a season-high 229 rushing yards as Willie Parker dashed 50 yards for a first-half score and finished with 65 yards on five carries. Glass is believed to be the first quarterback in school history with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, and coach Chris Creighton praised his senior signal-caller in Monday’s news conference.
If Glass is unable to play, Tyler Wiegers would return as starter. He was 11 of 15 for 83 yards in the second half and has thrown for 1,011 yards and five TDs with only one interception on the season.
Glass is also second in the team in rushing with 361 yards, trailing only Shaq Vann (392). Eastern Michigan has churned out 430 rushing yards in its last two games after averaging just 113.6 in its first five games.
The shift in dynamic offensively has hindered top wideout Blake Banham, who has totaled 12 catches for 104 yards in his last four games after bolting out of the gate with 23 receptions and 361 yards in the first three. The Eagles, though, have recorded three scoring pass plays of 75 yards or longer among their 12 passing touchdowns.
Cardinals hoping to use victory as springboard
Ball State still needs three wins for bowl eligibility, but snapping a six-game road losing streak in conference play could prove to be a huge confidence boost for third-year coach Mike Neu as it finally came through with the points needed to overturn a one-possession deficit in its favor for the first time in four tries this season.
“That was our best half of football this year,” Neu told Ball State’s official website. “We needed to win a close game. For us to be able to do that on the road against a good football team like Central Michigan … it was great that we were able to come here and get a win, considering the situation at halftime.”
Riley Neal fueled the fourth-quarter comeback with a 6-yard scoring toss to Riley Miller and added a 1-yard run 6:04 apart before directing a 12-play, 56-yard drive to set up Hagee‘s winning kick. Neal has thrown just one interception in his last 201 pass attempts after being picked off twice at Notre Dame, totaling 1,245 yards and six TD tosses in his last five games.
Miller leads a solid receiving trio with 40 catches for 546 yards, while diminutive wideouts Corey Lacanaria and Justin Hall cause mismatches with their speed over the middle. The 5-foot-8 Lacanaria has 36 catches for 388 yards, already establishing a career high in the latter category, while the 5-7 Hall has contributed 33 receptions for 267 yards.
Ball State is averaging 441.4 yards offensively, aided by an up-tempo offense that runs nearly 85 plays per game. The Cardinals have not won back-to-back conference games under Neu, last accomplishing the feat with victories over Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green to cap the 2014 season.
Ball State is:
- 4-1 ATS in its last five games after allowing fewer than 170 passing yards in its previous game.
- The under is 7-1 in Ball State’s last eight games.
- The under is 13-3 in its last 16 games as an underdog between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
- The under is 17-5 in its last 22 games following an ATS win.
Eastern Michigan is:
- 9-23 ATS in its last 32 games following a straight up win.
- 1-5 ATS in its last six games as a favorite between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
- 8-17 ATS in its last 25 games after allowing fewer than 170 passing yards in its previous game.
- The under is 14-6 in its last 20 games following an ATS win.
- The under is 3-1-1 in its last five road games.
- The under is 4-0 in its last four games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Almost everything about this game points to it being a nip-and-tuck contest as all six of Eastern Michigan’s games against FBS opponents have been decided by seven or fewer points while four of Ball State’s six games versus FBS foes have been settled by eight or less.
Glass’ uncertain status has this game makes this pick a “2” confidence rating, which is subject to change should it be updated during the week. Right now, though, Neal appears to be the more effective quarterback of the two teams, and with Ball State having rallied to win its last game has a slight edge in momentum to carry the day at home.
Prediction: Pick: Ball State +3
Full-Game Total Pick
Taking the under goes against the trend in recent matchups between the teams as the over has hit in eight of the last nine matchups. But with both teams inconsistent on offense despite the potential for big numbers, coupled with their track record of playing close contests all season, the under feels like the better play in this instance.
The Eagles have not reached 30 points since opening their season with a 51-17 win over FCS school Monmouth, while Ball State has scored more than 24 points against an FBS opponent just once.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 51.5 points
Half-Time Side Pick
The expectation is Neal and the Cardinals put together a complete 60-minute effort in this game, which means Ball State should lead outright after two quarters in this game. The Cardinals have not led at halftime in either of their last two games, but they also have held opponents to 38 first-half points in their four home games.
Prediction: Pick: Ball State +1.5
Half-Time Total Bet
The confidence rating is based on the expectation Wiegers will be under center for Eastern Michigan. The Eagles have been held to 10 or fewer first-half points in three of their four road games, and with the Cardinals being held to 10 or fewer in five of their last six games before halftime, the under is a solid play here.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 22.5 points