The 2012 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl between Ball State and Central Florida is one of the most underrated matchups this bowl season. Both teams have high-powered offenses, though the Knights are a little stronger on defense.
In a game that should be incredibly fun to watch, there are a number of players that will be worth paying close attention to. However, there are a select few on both sides that happen to stand out above the rest.
To properly prepare you for this clash of two very good mid-majors, here are the players we believe will play a significant role in the outcome of the game.
RB Jahwan Edwards
The Cardinals are rolling, entering this game with a six-game winning streak, and the credit largely goes to their outstanding rushing attack, led by sophomore Jahwan Edwards.
Not coincidentally, as soon as Edwards caught fire, the Cardinals took off. During the winning streak, he has carried the ball 125 times for 786 yards and nine touchdowns. He only failed to break 100 yards once, in the regular-season finale against Miami (OH)—he had 98 yards and three touchdowns.
If the Cardinals are going to win this game, Edwards will play a key role. He is the best and most valuable player they have on either side of the ball. Don't be shocked to see him go off against a defense that allows 162.4 yards per game on the ground this season.
Starting Quarterback (Keith Wenning or Kelly Page)
Which player will have the biggest impact in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl?
The ankle injury suffered by Keith Wenning in the penultimate game of the regular season has left his status for this game in doubt. If he can't go, senior quarterback Kelly Page will get the call after playing well against Miami (OH).
Wenning's status is interesting, because if he is able to start, UCF will definitely do all it can to attack the injury to prevent him from fully stepping into his throws.
Page has plenty of experience, having started seven games when he was a freshman in 2009 before being pulled because the team was 0-7. Since the running game for the Cardinals is so good, he won't be asked to do too much.
Whoever the quarterback is, it will change the game plan for the Cardinals. They are far more likely to open up the playbook with Wenning at the helm, though that could take away from their outstanding rushing attack.
WR Rannell Hall
Central Florida's offense is very balanced, though it is hardly the strength of the team. The fast, at times dominating, defense is what led the Knights to a 9-4 finish in the regular season.
However, there are a few playmakers who can make a difference for the Knights. Sophomore wide receiver Rannell Hall certainly fits that bill. He had just 557 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, but he had the best yards-per-catch average (18.0) of anyone on the team with at least 10 catches.
At 6'2", 191 pounds, Hall has the size to go and get the ball at the highest point, and his hands are so good that he can make the spectacular catch in traffic. He needs to be used in this offense more than he was in the last two games, when he had just three catches for 60 yards.
WR/KR Quincy McDuffie
In a game with two teams as evenly matched as this one—even with Ball State's defensive deficiencies, they score enough to keep up with Central Florida—special teams is going to play a pivotal role in the outcome.
Quincy McDuffie has been a star for the Knights returning kicks this season. He leads all of FBS with a remarkable 34.2 yards-per-return average.
In addition to his special teams contributions, McDuffie has had a very good season at wide receiver. He caught 28 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. His big-play capabilities on offense and special teams give the Knights a weapon that very few teams in the country can match.
If the Cardinals fall asleep in coverage, McDuffie's track record is proof positive that he will make you pay. His speed and vision of the field on kickoffs is second to none. He can be the difference-maker in this game, even if he only touches the ball three times.