Ball State students cheer on the Cardinals during the game against Northern Illinois on Oct. 1 in Scheumann Stadium. During the two home football games this season, Ball State has averaged 9,076 fans per game, though the stadium can hold up to 22,500 people. Grace Ramey // DN File
Chirp: X-factors against Toledo
Ball State (4-6, 1-5 MAC) travels to take on Toledo (8-2, 5-1) Nov. 16, looking to snap a three-game losing streak. The Cardinals must win their final two games to reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2013.
The Rockets lead the all-time series between the two teams, 21-19-1. In last year's meeting at Scheumann Stadium, Toledo raced out to a 24-3 halftime lead on its way to victory.
Last week, Ball State suffered a 48-41 loss to Eastern Michigan, while Toledo went on the road to defeat Northern Illinois 31-24.
Jake Fox, the Daily News football reporter, is traveling to the game and offered up some insight on the key positional matchups:
Ball State secondary vs. Toledo QB Logan Woodside
This one is pretty easy to break down.
Woodside is leading the MAC in passing yards (3,328) and passing touchdowns (37), and needs 10 more scores to break the single-season MAC record. He also doesn't make very many mistakes, as he's thrown only six interceptions this year.
That is bad news for the Cardinals, who were shredded by Eastern Michigan's Brogan Roback last week. The pass defense is last in the conference by a wide margin, allowing 313.1 yards per game. Also, they haven't been able to get to the quarterback much of late.
There's really no reason to suggest Ball State will be able to stop Woodside in this one. He has five receivers with over 30 catches this season, and should have another big game here.
Ball State rush defense vs. Toledo running game
Toledo leads the conference in total offense, and the running game is a big reason why.
The Rockets have a two-headed monster out of the backfield with senior Kareem Hunt (203 carries, 1,048 yards and seven touchdowns) and junior Terry Swanson (106 carries, 525 yards and three scores). Hunt didn't play in last year's meeting, but the team still racked up 280 rushing yards in the win.
Ball State has been pretty solid against the run this year, giving up 156.6 yards per game. Teams run with efficiency, but the totals are never too large because the Cardinals get burned by the pass.
It could be a similar case here. The Toledo running backs should have success against Ball State, even if the total isn't overly inflated. The Rockets play a complementary game and Hunt is one of the top backs in the MAC.
Ball State backfield vs. Toledo defense
Toledo has lost two games this year, and the formula for beating them has shown through in both losses: run the ball, and don't turn it over.
In a 55-53 loss to Brigham Young earlier this year, the Cougars gained 338 yards on the ground and six touchdowns. Ohio ran for 269 yards and a score on Toledo just three weeks ago. Overall, the Rockets are giving up only 160.6 yards per game, partially because teams are forced to pass to keep up with their high-flying offense.
Sophomore James Gilbert missed the second half of last week's loss to Eastern Michigan, but head coach Mike Neu said he expects him to be in the lineup. He will likely carry the load, while freshman Malik Dunner would be used as a change of pace in the passing game.
If (a big if) Ball State can control the clock and get 20-25 carries out of Gilbert for 150 yards and a couple scores, it might have a chance to win this game. The turnovers have to stop, too. But because of Toledo's success in stopping Ball State's rushing offense last year (26 yards), and Gilbert not being 100 percent probably, the Rockets get the edge here.