What bettors need to know: Ball St. at Central Michigan

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by - 11/19/2008 5:17 PM Share
By MATT SEVERANCE | November 18, 2008

Ball State at Central Michigan (+7, 54.5)

All-time series

CMU leads 21-18-1 and has won four in a row, including last year's 58-38 victory when the Chips rolled to a school-record 658 yards of offense behind QB Dan LeFevour's 506 total yards.

"It was embarrassing the way they came out and dominated us," BallState center Dan Gerberry told reporters. "This week is big for us, and me personally. ... They've beaten the crap out of us the last four years I've been here."

What's at stake

The calendar says the Mid-American Conference title game is Dec. 5, but disregard that. This is the MAC's Super Bowl. CMU and BallState are the only two unbeaten teams in the conference.

For Central Michigan, it's easy: Win Wednesday and the Chips claim their third consecutive MAC West title (they would hold head-to-head tiebreakers over BallState and Western Michigan). However, they are 1-8 all-time against ranked teams, with the lone win coming in 1991. This is CMU's second home game ever against a ranked foe.

The stakes are even higher for BallState, which can't afford a loss if it has any BCS bowl aspirations. The Cardinals are currently ranked No. 17 in the BCS standings and will need some help to get into the top 12. Even if BallState beats CMU, it must still defeat a very good Western Michigan team next Tuesday to claim the West title.

No matter which team wins the West, it will be a heavy favorite over the East champ in the conference championship game.

Weather likely a big factor

Snow is expected, with a low of 25 degrees. To prepare for the elements, CMU has practiced outside instead of in its indoor practice facility.

"The players have to be ready for it," CMU coach Butch Jones said this week. "Wind could be a factor too. It may affect the passing game a little bit. We have to have the ability to run the ball and stop the run defensively."

If the game hinges on the ground games, BSU would seem to have an advantage. RB MiQuale Lewis, the nation's sixth-leading rusher, has eight 100-yard games on the season and a rushing touchdown in nine consecutive contests. He has totaled 1,273 yards and 17 TDs in 2008, but will be facing CMU for the first time ever after being was injured the previous two years.

CMU is not the prodigious running team that BallState is, with QB LeFevour leading the team with 450 yards on the ground. But LeFevour is coming off his highest rushing total of the season, 121 yards against Northern Illinois.

Passing the torch

Central's LeFevour is the reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and he has had a good season, ranking 24th in the country in pass efficiency and completing 171 of 254 passes for, 1,808 yards and 13 TDs despite missing two games with injury.

Ball State 's Nate Davis is the odds-on favorite to take that MAC Offensive Player of the Year honor away this year. Davis is eighth in Division I in passing efficiency and has completed 189 of 277 passes for 2,647 yards.

Davis has thrown at least one TD pass in 26 of the past 27 games and is no slouch as a runner, gaining 135 yards while scoring three TDs on the ground this season.

By the numbers

CMU has won six games in a row, the school's longest winning streak since 1994. It is averaging more than 30 points per game in that stretch. Five of CMU's 10 games this season have been decided by three points or less, with the Chippewas going 5-0 in those games.

While BallState (10-0 for the first time) has outscored its opponents by an average of 22.2 points per game, CMU has outscored its opponents by 0.5 points per game (that is a bit distorted by a 56-17 loss at Georgia).

Ball State 's closest game was a 12-point win against Navy, while seven of CMU's eight wins are by 10 points or less.

Both teams are 3-0 against common opponents. Central Michigan beat Toledo 24-23, Northern Illinois 33-30 in overtime and Indiana 37-34. BallState beat Toledo 31-0, Northern Illinois 45-14 and Indiana 42-20.

Ball State 's defense has allowed 20 points or fewer in seven straight games and eight times this season. CMU's defense, meanwhile, leads the MAC in sacks with 27 but is only 99th in the country in total defense.

BSU leads the MAC in scoring offense (37.6 ppg), scoring defense (15.4 ppg), total offense (461.0 ypg), pass efficiency (168.5), pass efficiency defense (106.2) and third-down conversions (51.9 pct.). The Cardinals are the least-penalized team and least-sacked team in the conference.

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