FACTS & STATS: Site: InfoCision Stadium (30,000) -- Akron, Ohio. Television: ESPN Regional, ESPN3.com. Home Record: BSU 4-0, Akron 1-2. Away Record: BSU 3-1, Akron 1-4. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, Akron 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 4-0, Akron 1-3. Series Record: Akron leads, 10-9-1.
GAME NOTES: With a five-game slide behind them, the Akron Zips now shoot for back-to-back wins for the first time this season as they host the Ball State Cardinals in Mid-American Conference play at InfoCision Stadium.
Akron, which had won only once during the first seven games of the campaign, that being a narrow 35-33 final versus James Madison at home in early September, finally came out on top again last Saturday with a 24-17 triumph over Miami-Ohio.
Now 1-3 in MAC play, the Zips are tied for fifth place in the East Division standings.
While the Zips are wallowing near the bottom of their division, Ball State is currently tied with Northern Illinois for the top spot in the West Division with a perfect 4-0 mark. Last weekend, the Cardinals secured their fifth consecutive win in a 38-17 decision versus Western Michigan on the road.
The lone setback for BSU was a 34-27 loss to North Texas in the middle of last month.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, the Zips own a 10-9-1 edge over Ball State, although the Cardinals have taken three straight decisions, including a 37-30 triple-overtime event in 2010.
Against Western Michigan, one of only a handful of teams that is still winless this season, the Cardinals were led by quarterback Keith Wenning who converted 25-of-37 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Willie Snead, Zane Fakes and Jamill Smith all caught TD passes, while Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks both tallied rushing scores for the visitors.
Defensively, BSU held the Broncos out of the end zone until the fourth quarter, so the final score made it appear as though the game was a lot closer than it really was. Dae'Shaun Hurley and Nathan Ollie led the attack on that side of the ball for the Cardinals, posting 11 and 10 tackles, respectively.
The run defense for the Cardinals has been somewhat suspect this season, giving up 204.5 ypg, which is 104th in the country. In terms of pass efficiency defense, Ball State has shown much more effort with a rating of 117.37, a number that has the group ranked 31st in the nation.
Averaging better than five and a half tackles for loss per contest, the Cardinals are led in that category by Ollie who has delivered eight TFL, while Jonathan Newsome comes in with five TFL and a team-best 3.5 sacks.
Wenning has the passing attack for the Cardinals humming along, generating 331.8 ypg to rank 13th in the country, and his 61.4 percent accuracy and 18 touchdowns easily outweigh the five interceptions he has tossed on just over 300 attempts. Snead is clearly the top target down field, sporting 58 receptions for 957 yards and eight touchdowns.
While Wenning has the Cardinals producing, the same cannot be said for Akron on offense, even though the team did get back into the win column last week. Leading the charge against Miami was running back Jawon Chisholm, who carried the ball 16 times for 86 yards and three touchdowns. As a group, the Zips pounded out just 147 net rushing yards and 374 yards of total offense as quarterback Kyle Pohl converted 23-of-32 passes for 227 yards.
On the other side of the ball, Akron limited the RedHawks to just 303 yards of offense, a surprising number indeed given that the Zips, after eight games, are still listed as 78th in the country with an average of 414.9 ypg allowed. Albert Presley and Nico Caponi both made their presence known with two sacks apiece, while Nick Rossi tallied a pair of forced fumbles as well.
Even though the defense has had its moments this season, the Zips still rely on Pohl who is far from an efficient passer these days. The sophomore signal caller has completed a decent 56.6 percent of his pass attempts, but he has but nine touchdowns and has been picked off eight times already. If not for Chisholm, with his 443 yards and six touchdowns, this could easily be a winless program.
Unless the Zips find a quick fix for what ails them on both sides of the ball, there's little reason to believe they can keep up with a Ball State squad that has so much to still play for.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 35, Akron 20
Saturday, October 26, 12 p.m. (et).