A hefty workload remains to be attended to for coach Pete Lembo and Ball State.
I’m sure it was a happy flight back to the Muncie airport from West Point, N.Y. two weeks ago. Yes, Ball State knocked off the always-pesky Black Knights of Army en route to notching its sixth win of 2012 and becoming bowl eligible for the second time in as many seasons.
But the time for relaxation and leisure has long been expired.
And the clock continues to tick, as Ball State will make the trip to Toledo for an ever-so-important showdown with the No. 23 ranked Rockets — one of the Mid-American Conference’s perennial powerhouses — Tuesday night.
Players are eager, fans are excited and the Ball State alumni are pumped. But I’m curious to see how this team responds after becoming bowl eligible. I understand the thrill and anticipation of what the future holds for this team. Ball State hasn’t provided us with such optimism and exhilaration for the majority of the last three years.
I say this because Ball State faces a familiar hurdle — the same one it looked straight in the eye last season when it won its sixth game. Ball State needed just one more win to almost certainly assure it an invite to a bowl game.
But it failed to do so. Rather, Ball State dropped its final two contests of the 2011 season and allowed more than 40 points in each of those losses.
So there are reasons to be anxious, but there are also reasons to be concerned. Don’t forget, three very important contests are dangling in the horizon — three tests Ball State must rise to in order to have any chance at furthering this special season.
As a previously mentioned, Toledo is one of the strongest teams in the conference and was picked by some to claim the MAC West Division. And they have yet to disappoint. Toledo is 19-2 in its last 21 conference games — and will prove to be a robust challenge for Ball State to say the least.
Ohio, another contender for the conference crown, will visit Muncie next week and will be no easy task either. Since 2009, Ohio has amassed an overall record of 34-11 and is 23-6 in conference play during that stretch.
I believe Ball State has learned a tremendous amount from its mistakes last season. It’s hard to imagine Keith Wenning and Travis Freeman allowing a repeat of 2011 to unfold. I’m also under the belief Ball State will win one of its next three contests. The odds are in its favor. Lembo, his coaching staff and the players have come to far to let this season slip out from under their grasp.
Then again, this is college football, and we’ve seen some bizarre things unwind this season. The last three games should prove to be entertaining and will reveal the true grit and character of Ball State.
So let’s not lace up our bowling shoes — at least not yet, anyway.