No. 17 Western Michigan Broncos (8-0 SU, 6-2 ATS) vs. Ball State Cardinals (4-4 SU, 5-3 ATS)
College Football Week 10
Date/Time: Tuesday, November 1, 2016, 8:00 PM EST
Where: Schuemann Stadium, Muncie, Ind.
TV: ESPN2, DirecTV 209
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WMU -17.5/BALL +17.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
The Mid-American Conference starts up their featured early week “MACtion” football games on all of the ESPN sister channels in November, and this Tuesday’s kickoff is a doosy when the 17th-ranked and undefeated Western Michigan Broncos travel to Muncie, Indiana, to take on the 4-4 Ball State Cardinals inside Schuemann Stadium on ESPN2.
The Broncos have been on quite a run over the past two seasons, running off a record of 15-2 in their last 17 games including their perfect record of eight wins thus far in 2016 to give them a current winning streak of 10 games. Of course their two signature victories this season have both come over teams on the road in the Big Ten Conference, beating Northwestern, 22-21, in the 2016 season opener and handing Illinois a, 34-10, beat down in week three. This week the Broncos climbed three spots in the Associated Press college football poll to No. 17, despite not playing since their, 45-31, victory over in-state rival Eastern Michigan back on October 22nd.
Ball State has struggled since they started the MAC portion of their schedule, dropping three of their last four games including their last game on October 22, a 35-25, defeat to the hands of the Akron Zips. The Cardinals are only 1-2 at home inside Schuemann Stadium in 2016, and have also lost to three common opponents that the Broncos have already beaten this season (Akron, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois), so to say the Cardinals will have to play a flawless game in primetime on Tuesday would be a mild understatement.
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The hill the Cardinals will have to climb on Tuesday is represented by the huge point spread put on this one by oddsmakers, since Western Michigan is favored by anywhere from 18.5 to 17.5 points depending on which sportsbook you’re betting with for the game. As of press time, there still has not been a total released for this Tuesday’s game, so it is currently off the board at all of the sportsbooks.
Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck, who will likely field plenty of offers from larger programs in the offseason and become the latest MAC coach to bolt the mid-major league for the bigtime, has had his Broncos stay focused and playing great football all season long. It helps that he has senior QB Zach Terrell back to lead the offense, and Terrell has responded by leading the FBS in touchdown-to-interception ratio with a 20-to-1 mark and nearly 2,000 yards through eight games. His favorite target, Corey Davis, leads FBS with 11 touchdown catches and running back Jarvion Franklin only needs 91 yards to cross the 1,000-yard mark for the season to give the Broncos a balance attack that is ranked 6th in the country scoring 44.4 points per game.
The Broncos offense will likely feast on the fact that the Ball State defense (like most MAC defenses) struggle to stop teams from piling up the yards. The Cardinals pass defense is ranked 116th in the country allowing 287 yards a game, although they do seem to stiffen in the red zone allowing just 25.4 points per game (54th in FBS).
Ball State’s best hope is to hold onto the ball on offense for large chunks of time by using running back James Gilbert (987 yards, 11 TD) as much as possible to keep Terrell and the Broncos attack off the field. That could be easier said than done though, because the Broncos will likely stack the box against Gilbert and force QB Riley Neal to beat them in the air. Neal has more picks (9) than TD (7) throws this year, and the Cardinals as a team struggle in the passing game in general ranking just 84th in the country with a 213 ypg average.
Last season the Broncos just destroyed the Cardinals in Kalamazoo, handing out a, 54-7, whoopin’ to give them two wins over their MAC West Division rivals in a row. Not that this means a whole lot, but the road team in this series is a solid 8-3 ATS in the last 11 games and the over is also sporting solid betting trend numbers, going 5-1 in the last six head-to-head games played in Muncie at Schuemann Stadium.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Western Michigan hasn’t had as much trouble covering the huge point spread on the road in the MAC (2-0 ATS) as they have covering it at home (0-2 ATS). I think Coach Fleck will have this team prepared for this moment, and the talent gap between the Broncos and the Cardinals is too wide for me to consider a play on the home dog in this one. I’m taking Western Michigan to cover the big 17.5-point spread on the road on Tuesday.
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