Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Key MAC West matchup for Ball State

By Adam K. Moussa
Special to ESPN.com

The 275-mile stretch of pavement that separates Central Michigan’s Mount Pleasant campus and Ball State’s Scheumann Stadium will go a long way in shaping the landscape of the MAC West.

Approximately four hours after Central Michigan (3-5, 2-2) boards its team bus, the Chippewas will arrive in Indiana to face Ball State (8-1, 5-0) on Wednesday, with kickoff at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2/WatchESPN.

Keith Wenning
Keith Wenning and Ball State look to improve on their 5-0 record in the MAC.
A Ball State win would set up a battle of conference unbeatens next week, when the Cardinals travel to take on undefeated NIU. Before BSU looks ahead to its archrival, though, the Cardinals must focus on a road-tested Central Michigan squad that will compete for the first time since Oct. 19.

The well-rested Chippewas, who last won in Muncie in 2009, are led by sophomore running back Saylor Lavallii, who has rushed for 758 yards and five touchdowns on 154 carries since starting running back Zurlon Tipton and starting quarterback Cody Kater were injured in Week 1. Central Michigan’s rushing attack is complemented by junior wide receiver Titus Davis, who has accounted for 34 receptions, 627 yards and five touchdowns.

Ball State is off to a 5-0 start in conference play for the third time since joining the league in 1975 and is tied with NIU for the MAC West lead. Behind senior quarterback Keith Wenning, who ranks fifth in the nation with 2,865 passing yards and has 23 touchdowns, the Cardinals have scored 355 points this season. Wenning’s top targets are Willie Snead, Jordan Williams and Jamill Smith, who have combined for more than 2,400 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The Central Michigan defense, which ranks 93rd in the nation, will need to contain an explosive Ball State offense that averages more than 460 yards per game. Leading the defensive charge for the Chippewas are linebackers Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton, who have each tallied exactly 84 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.

Ball State senior cornerback Jeffery Garrett leads an opportunistic Cardinals defense that has picked off 10 passes, has recovered 13 fumbles and is tied for sixth in the FBS in turnovers gained.

Wednesday’s matchup will mark the 46th meeting between the two teams, a series that is tied at 22-22-1.

Last season, Ball State defeated Central Michigan 41-30 in Mount Pleasant en route to the team’s first postseason bowl appearance since 2008.