|Around The MAC|
|Wednesday, October 22 2008|
It's our regular mid-week look-in around the Mid-American Conference. This week we have several updates including some BCS chatter surrounding Ball State, injury news and more from our reporting partners across the MAC.
Ball State's football program continues to embrace the first-time lofty recognition coming its way like a case of poison ivy.
The first BCS poll of the season came out Sunday, and the Cardinals appeared in it for the first time in school history by being ranked No. 20.
How much attention did Cardinals coach Brady Hoke give the poll?
"None. It's not important," the sixth-year coach said in his Monday press conference. "I'm not even worried about it. The goal has never been to go to a BCS bowl game. The goal has been to win the Mid-American Conference championship. If we do that, we'll see what happens."
Ball State has been ranked the past three weeks in The Associated Press poll, and the past two weeks in the USA Today poll.
Hoke downplayed those first-time honors when they happened, and he's doing the same with the BCS list.
The Cardinals have two chances to gain a berth in one of the five BCS bowl games: Finish No. 12 in the final poll, or finish No. 16 and be ahead of one of the champions from the six BCS conferences.
In both cases, Ball State must be the highest ranked team on the list from the Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, Western Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA.
"We have no control on that, other than how we prepare and what we do on a daily basis to win," Hoke said. "We don't vote, we have nothing to do with it. We have to worry about what we can control, and that's to get ready to play Eastern (Michigan on Saturday)."
Hoke said he never discussed the BCS poll with his players at Sunday's practice.
- Muncie (Ind.) Star Press
Injuries Thin RB Ranks
Junior tailback Mario Henry will miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a severe medial collateral ligament sprain in his right knee.
Henry was injured during last Saturdays win against Army at UB Stadium. He started his first game of the season in place of junior tailback James Starks, who missed the game with turf toe.
Henry is the team's third-leading rusher behind Starks and sophomore Brandon Thermilus with 130 yards, averaging 4.5 yards a carry. He also has five receptions for 59 yards.
Sophomore Ike Nduka, who primarily plays special teams and has yet to carry the ball as a collegian, now moves up the depth chart. A native of White Plains, Nduka was a third-team all-state selection after gaining 1,386 yards and scoring 17 touchdowns as a high school senior.
- Buffalo News
After losing in bizarre fashion last week to Akron on an unlikely play that saw the Zips score the wining touchdown after recovering and advancing its own blocked field goal, Eastern Michigan has little time to lament its misfortune with a game on tap against 20th-ranked and undefeated Ball State in Muncie on Saturday.
It will be the first time EMU has faced a ranked squad since falling 55-0 to 14th-ranked Michigan in 2005.
Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk acknowledged during his weekly press conference Monday that he would have been surprised at the start of the season if he had been told that the Cardinals would be the first ranked opponent the Eagles would be facing this season but believes the Cardinals' scheduling model this season is both one that has benefited Ball State's surge in the rankings and is one that other MAC schools should try to emulate in the future.
"Any time that our conference administration or university administration can schedule to have a chance to go undefeated brings tremendous notoriety to the university and the whole conference," said Genyk in discussing Ball State's non-conference schedule.
"It's hard to put a dollar amount on playing the big guarantee game - going out and playing an Oklahoma. Granted, you make $600-700-800,000, but if you have a chance to go undefeated for the first seven games now you have a sold-out stadium and increased support from alumni. So how does that parallel from a financial standpoint? I think it's (the notoriety and the national ranking) great for the MAC and shows every institution that if you get it rolling a bit, amazing things can happen."
Trend worth noting: The Cardinals have allowed only one touchdown over their past two contests and have outscored their last four opponents 24-6 in the opening quarter while the Eagles have been outscored 62-0 in the opening quarter of its last six games.
- MAC Report Online
Another Role for QB Edelman?
Visiting NFL scouts have wondered whether Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman could be a candidate to transform into a punt and kickoff-return specialist in the mold of former KSU star Joshua Cribbs.
They may actually get a look at Edelman in that role very soon. With the Flashes ranked near the bottom of the national rankings in punt returns, Martin is seriously considering turning to KSUs most electrifying runner to spark his team's woeful special teams.
"We are trying to get the best people out there we can," said Martin. "Here before long, we may put Julian Edelman back there returning punts. He will do it. He is a football player. He will make a play. He may be back returning kickoffs before it is over. He may be on the kickoff cover team before it is over because I know he will go make plays. And he wants to do
it. I don't know about some of these other guys."
Martin has already turned to Edelman as punter Matt Rinehart's personal protector. Edelman confirmed he is eager for the opportunity to return punts.
"There is nothing I wouldnt be willing to do on that football field," said Edelman, who is third in the MAC in rushing at 89 yards per game (5.4 per carry). The Flashes are averaging a league-worst 4.3 yards per punt return.
"I would be real excited if the coaching staff wanted me to return punts," Edelman said. "If coach needs me there, I am there."
Injuries Piling Up
In a season already rife with injury, the Bobcats lost two players for the remainder of the season in a span of three days last week.
Redshirt running back Donte Harden was lost for the year when he underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his shoulder last Tuesday. On Friday, sophomore cornerback Julian Posey severely injured an ankle in practice and will likely miss the seasons final five games.
Posey's injury hurts Ohio's defensive secondary, where he was a member of four-corner rotation. Given the Bobcats penchant for playing man-to-man, the rotation was a needed luxury.
Harden's absence could be trickier to overcome. Ohio spent most of the first half of the season trying to establish a running game, and seemed to do so recently behind Harden - the teams leading rusher and scorer.
Ohio has three other running backs it could turn to. Junior L.J. Flintall is healthy, but has been seldom used. Sophomore Vince Davidson has been slowed by a turf toe injury all season. Junior Chris Garrett has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been dogged the last month by a high ankle sprain.
Garrett will likely get the first shot to be the every down back, but offensive coordinator Tim Albin said he'd go with the hot hand.
Garrett is the team's third-leading rusher and has been a part of the offense for three
"Chris has got quite a bit of experience now," Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. "We're hoping he can hold up, play well and get through a game without limping."
- Athens Messenger
Rare Prime Time Appearance
The Owls played just their third home game, and first and only home game in October, when they played host to Ohio on Tuesday. The Owls believe they had never been on national television before (they were on ESPN2), or certainly not in primetime.
They won't be home again until their last two games at end of November. In their two previous games at Lincoln Financial Field, they didnt score a TD. That included an overtime period in a 12-9 loss to Connecticut and also a 7-3 loss to Western Michigan.
Coach Al Golden seems to be pleased with Kee-Ayre Griffin at running back. He's played a lot lately, and done well. Originally recruited as a RB, the freshman was moved from the secondary, where he was a back-up corner.
Adam DiMichele (shoulder) returned from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss most of the past four games to start against Ohio.
- Philadelphia Daily News
The biggest thing that stood out to coach Tom Amstutz from the University of Toledo's loss to Northern Illinois last week was that the Rockets were reacting to plays instead of making them.
In dropping to 2-5, the Rockets had just 229 yards of offense, and no one on the defense had a sack, broke up a pass or forced a turnover. NIU won 38-7.
"Their pads were lower, their knees were bent a little bit better than ours and they were ready for a more physical game than we were," Amstutz said.
"We were there to make plays and they were the ones falling forward. Football is a game of inches and that's literally true many days. They were falling forward and we were falling back. They won that collision battle."
As the Rockets get ready for 5-2 Central Michigan today, Amstutz wants to better prepare his team for those collisions. The Rockets have fewer injuries this year than at this time last year so its a luxury he can afford.
"I want to work our (first string) against (the second string) more to get a little more physical contact in practice," Amstutz said. "I want to get a faster tempo."
- Toledo Blade