When Ball State takes the field against Texas A&M on Saturday, the pairing will not quite be David vs. Goliath but an upset would be hard for SEC lovers and Aggie fans to comprehend.
Texas A&M opened the season with an impressive 38-17 win over Pac-12 powerhouse Arizona State. The Sun Devils had trouble moving the ball on offense being held to 291 yards. ASU also had trouble stopping the Aggies on defense allowing 425 yards. The victory was a big win for the Aggies and the SEC against the Pac-12.
Ball State slipped past Virginia Military Institute in Week 1 winning 48-36. The Cardinals got a school-record four touchdowns out of Darian Green with three on the ground and one in the air. In total, Green had 73 yards rushing and 74 yards receiving providing the bulk of the offense.
Ball State at Texas A&M
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas A&M -30
Three Things to Watch
1. Ball State’s passing attack vs. Texas A&M’s defense
When Ball State reviewed the tape on the Aggies’ dismantling of Arizona State, one can safely assume there were very few smiling faces coming out of the film session other than a few rah-rah guys hooting and hollering. New A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis has made an instant impact, which should frighten not only the Cardinals but also the rest of the SEC. The No. 15-ranked Sun Devils were held to 291 yards of offense with just 92 on the ground and 199 in the air.
Ball State quarterback Jack Milas had a career-game in Week 1 against VMI passing for 338 yards on 34-of-52 attempts. Mike Bercovici was sacked nine times against the Aggies. Milas will have to have another career day if an upset is in the making.
2. Texas A&M’s rushing offense vs. Ball State’s rush defense
Being nitpicky, A&M had 425 yards of total offense against a Top 25 non-conference opponent in the season opener. Hard to be too critical but there is always room for improvement starting with the run game. The Aggies had 178 yards on the ground but the stat total is deceiving. Tra Carson had a nice stat line: 96 yards rushing with one touchdown. Reality is it took 29 carries to get to 96 and he still did not top 100 yards rushing. What will happen against SEC defenses?
The other problem is Kyler Murray was the second-leading rusher with 69 yards on six carries. On the surface this is fine but ideally offensive coordinator Jake Spavital would like to protect his quarterbacks from taking shots down field. James white had two carries for 12 yards in a backup tailback role. Someone has to emerge as a reliable back for 10-12 carries a game throughout the season or the Aggies offense, although dynamic, will stay one-dimensional making life slightly easier for SEC defensive coordinators in 2015 when playing A&M.
3. A&M’s offense vs. A&M’s offense
Ball security was a problem for the Aggies giving the pigskin back to ASU three times. Kyle Allen got a second half benching after losing a fumble and tossing a pick before being put back into the game late in the second half. Holding onto the ball and making smart decisions within the offense should be a fixture of head coach Kevin Sumlin’s crew on Saturday.
Let’s be honest, A&M now has two games to tinker with its lineup (Game 3 vs. Nevada), which will include alternating sophomore Allen and freshman Murray under center. The 12th Man might be excited to see what the freshman brings to the table but too much playing around with the offense could upend any balance or team support for Allen going forward or Murray going forward.
Aggie fans have to hope Sumlin picks one quarterback, letting said player gel with the first-team and then let the backup gel with whoever is left on the field in mop-up duty against the Cardinals and next week versus Nevada. The bigger emphasis should be on establishing a consistent running attack. Chavis will have the defense ready.
Prediction: Texas A&M 56, Ball State 17
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.