This game features two of the best junior quarterbacks in the nation. Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour put up Tim Tebow-like numbers a year ago, running and passing for a combined 46 touchdowns. His production has dropped off significantly this season, but he is still capable of putting the Chippewas on his back and carrying them to victory.
Ball State’s Nate Davis is one of the leading candidates for the Faulk Trophy. His steady play has led the Cardinals to a perfect 10-0 record despite the loss of the best receiver in the MAC, Dante Love, who suffered a severe spine injury in the fourth game of the season.
Without Love in the lineup, head coach Brady Hoke has leaned more on the running game than expected. MiQuale Lewis responded to the challenge in a big way, with his 1,273 yards and 17 td pacing the MAC’s top rushing attack.
The Ball State offensive line has been excellent in 2008 so far, but they’ll have their hands full trying to block Frank Zombo. The senior Chippewa pass rusher has 8 sacks, which matches the total the Cardinals line has allowed all season.
If Zombo can break through and cause some disruption in the backfield, it will take a lot of pressure off the porous CMU secondary. The Chippewas allow a league-worst 273.7 yards passing per game, which isn’t good going up against one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.
One other chance Central has for generating some momentum is the play of Antonio Brown. Not only does Brown lead the team in receptions, he’s also one of the top punt returners around.
Overall I give Ball State the edge. Despite the fact that the game will be played in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Hoke has the better overall team in all three phases of the game. The Cardinals don’t beat themselves, and I don’t believe the Chippewa defense will be able to contain Nate Davis.
J.Pike’s Pick: Ball State 31, Central Michigan 23