by: Steve Merrill - lead handicapper from

Until this week, Ball State was best known for being the alma mater of late-night TV host David Letterman, but now the Cardinals are getting attention for their football program with their best start since 1965 and first Top 25 ranking in the school’s 84-year football history. So the question now arises… is Ball State for real?

Ball State has benefited from a relatively easy schedule; however they have been extremely impressive with all six wins coming by at least 12+ points which includes a 35-23 win versus Navy and a 42-20 win at Indiana. Last week’s 31-0 win at Toledo was also impressive as the Rockets entered that game with a 47-6 SU record at home.

Ball State will probably be favored in five of their final six games, so an 11-1 SU record in definitely possible and a 12-0 SU mark is within reach if they can upset Central Michigan on the road during a nationally televised game on Wednesday, November 19th. The Cardinals finish the season the following week at home against Western Michigan, so Ball State definitely controls their own destiny on the road to the MAC championship game and a possible 12-1 or 13-0 SU record.

Ball State started to turn things around last year with their first winning record this decade as they finished the regular season 7-5 SU before losing 52-30 to Rutgers in the International Bowl as a 10½-point underdog. The Cardinals returned 18 starters this season, including all 11 offensive starters, so hopes were high in Muncie, Indiana.

This veteran offense is led by junior quarterback Nate Davis who threw for 3,667 yards last year with an outstanding 30/6 touchdown/interception ratio. Davis is once again having a fantastic season and enters this weekend with a 9.3 yards per pass average and an 11/3 TD/INT ratio (versus opponents that allow just 8.1 ypp on average). Ball State’s offense has been explosive this season and is averaging 39.7 points per game and 7.0 yards per play (versus opponents that allow just 30.1 ppg and 5.9 yppl).

Ball State did suffer a major loss last month when star wide receiver Dante Lewis was lost for the season with a serious spine injury. Lewis led the team in receiving last year with 100 receptions and 1,398 yards, and already had 25 receptions in his first three games before suffering his injury versus Indiana. Ball State has continued to perform well offensively without Lewis in the lineup as the Cardinals have scored 42, 41, and 31 points in each of the past three games.

The biggest surprise this season has been the improvement of Ball State’s defense which allowed 28.3 points per game and 6.2 yards per play last year, but is now permitting just 16.8 points per game and only 5.3 yards per play (versus opponents that average 24.1 ppg and 5.6 yppl). The Cardinals were especially impressive last week as they shutout a normally strong Toledo offense on the road and held the Rockets to just 157 total yards.

Ball State’s 6-0 SU and 5-0 ATS start is legit and the Cardinals are definitely for real. They face a potential letdown this weekend on the road against Western Kentucky, especially with bigger conference games on deck, but the Cardinals should still survive and get the straight-up win and overall they are well on their way to at least an 11 or 12 wins this year.

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