Pete Lembo is coming over from FCS D1-AA Elon out of North Carolina where he led them to their very first playoff appearance in 2009. Ball State had Stan Parrish as the head coach for a brief two years. Before that, Brady Hoke went 34-39, though he did go 12-0 before finishing up at 12-2 in his final season. He moved on to take the San Diego State job and of course is now at Michigan.
These Cardinals out of Muncie had a tough go around last year at just 4-8. Seventeen starters return in what is without a shadow of doubt the toughest overall schedule of any MAC team.
They open up with the Indiana Hoosiers before they must travel to Tampa against the USF Bulls. A few weeks later, they must go to Norman to get beaten by the mighty Boomer Sooners who are 58-2 at home.
QB Nate Davis was quite the stud in 2008, but nobody has come close to replacing him. Keith Wenning’s 14 TD/ 14 INT returns as does his mediocre cast.
No Ball State players even garnered All-MAC consideration outside OG Kitt O’Brien. The offense was 106th in the nation averaging only 305 yards per game and if those numbers do not increase any time soon, then another brutal season will be ahead.
The defense was 79th in total defense allowing 398 yards per game, but with seven starters back on defense, you expect those numbers to improve.
SS Sean Baker and MLB Travis Freeman are the two players who can make a big impact on this squad, but it is going to be tough when you still cannot stop the run.
They lost to Iowa and Northern Illinois by a combined score of 104-21. Those two teams loved to run the ball and they gashed the boys from Muncie for over 450 yards. They need better play from the interior of their line and Adam Morris may be the guy to look at. Last year, he had 23 tackles, half a sack and only 2.5 tackles for loss, not enough production for half a season let alone a full year.
This squad will be an underdog in every game outside of a home date against Buffalo. The schedule would be tough for any non-BCS team for that matter. If they had one of the easier MAC schedule, I would have them winning four or five games, especially with 17 starters back.
By November, they have to go on the road to Eastern and Western Michigan followed by a trip to DeKalb against Northern Illinois. This team is more talented than a year ago, but the schedule is three times more difficult, if not more. Anything close to last season’s four win total would be one heck of a year.
Predicted Finish: 1-11, 1-7
Predicted Bowl: None
Predicted order of finish in MAC: 11th overall, sixth in West Division