Members of the Ball State football team celebrate after winning the game against the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 31 at Scheumann Stadium. Ball State won 20-10. Breanna Daugherty // DN File
Chirp: X factors on the field - Bowling Green
Ball State secondary vs. Bowling Green Quarterback
Ball State: It's been the same story all year for the Cardinals. The secondary has been one of the most struggling units on either side of the ball for the team. Minor improvements have been seen here and there, but not enough to contain the upper tier of quarterbacks.
Bowling Green: Matt Johnson is one of the top passing quarterbacks in the nation. He trails the leader in passing yards by just 37 yards and averages more than 400 yards per game. Johnson is a senior quarterback that is likely headed to the NFL draft next year as well.
Edge: Bowling Green. This is most likely the best quarterback the Cardinals have faced all season, and Johnson will be looking to raise his draft stock going into the postseason.
Ball State rushing attack vs. Bowling Green run defense
Ball State: The Cardinals have been averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season, respectively. James Gilbert is coming into his own as a freshman with 4 yards per carry and has just three fewer carries than Darian Green, who's currently averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The Cardinals have shown they can run against some of the best defenses in the nation, but have struggled to do it consistently.
Bowling Green: The Falcons have been allowing 4.2 yards per carry to opposing teams this year. They have gone up against some tough competition this season and have held them relatively well. To go with the yards per carry allowed, they have given up 21 rushing touchdowns so far. Bowling Green has shown they can stop the run when they need to, but again it's a matter of what team shows up that day.
Edge: Tie. The Cardinals are running almost exactly as much as the Falcons are allowing. This edge could swing either way, depending on which Ball State rushing attack shows up.
Ball State pass rush vs. Bowling Green offensive line
Ball State: The Cardinals have struggled to get to the quarterback this season. If you can't generate pressure and force poor throws, quarterbacks can wait for their receivers to get open for the easy completions. The Cardinals can't afford to give Johnson any more time than he already has.
Bowling Green: Bowling Green has allowed 31 sacks this year, good for just more than three per game. Johnson has been able to throw for 40 touchdowns while averaging more than 400 yards per game to make up for it. The Cardinals may get to to him once or twice during the game, but it may not affect much.
Edge: Bowling Green. As much as the Falcons have struggled to contain the pass rush on the season, the Cardinals have struggled just as much to generate pressure. But the amount of time the Falcons will open up for Matt Johnson should be enough.
Ball State linebackers vs. Bowling Green running backs
Ball State: The Cardinals have been allowing 5 yards per carry to opposing teams this season. The defensive line might be able to get in the backfield, and if they break loose, the linebackers will be right there. Senior linebacker Ben Ingle has 96 total tackles on the season, while upcoming Sean Wiggins is second on the team with 90.
Bowling Green: Travis Greene and Fred Coppet, Bowling Green's top two running backs, have averaged 5.7 and 5.6 yards per carry this year, but the longest run between the two is 43 yards. They rely on the ability to power and bully their way through defenders rather than outrun them. For most teams, that may be a winning strategy, but the Cardinals linebackers hit hard.
Edge: Ball State. Bowling Green's run style works in favor of the Cardinals. Ingle and Wiggins have been able to stop runs that come anywhere near them but have struggled to contain runs that bounce to the outside.