Chirp: X Factors on the Field
Ball State rushing attack vs. Toledo run defense
Ball State: Ball State's ground game is averaging over 230 yards per game and have 10 touchdowns. These numbers look even more impressive with big games against Texas A&M and a top defense in Northwestern. Running back Darian Green has had no trouble running behind Ball State's veteran offensive line. Mixing it up with freshman James Gilbert and Riley Neal out of the pocket, look for Ball State to keep its commitment to the running game.
Toledo: Toledo boasts one of the top-ranked run defenses in the country, allowing under 100 rushing yards per game. The Rockets are 3-0, and held nationally-ranked Arkansas to just 103 yards on the ground. Toledo is also coming off of a dominating win against Arkansas State where it forced the Red Wolves into -14 yards on the ground. Toledo will come in looking to slow the Ball State running game and keep the Cardinals' offense off the field.
Edge: Ball State. The Cardinals have shown every game they want to run the football, and have had success. This is the probably the most even matchup of the game, but Ball State's three-headed monster of Green, Gilbert and Neal can help them move the ball on the Rockets' defense.
Ball State secondary vs. Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely
Ball State: What looked like an improving unit struggled against Northwestern last week. The Cardinals have had trouble stopping the pass all season, and Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson shredded the secondary for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps the most depleted unit on Ball State's defense, the Cardinals have dealt with some good passing attacks. Ball State has some good young recruits with upside and potential, but they haven't reached that level yet.
Toledo: Phillip Ely has performed modestly this season through some tough competition. His 48.3 completion percentage and two touchdowns are nothing to write home about, but 227 yards per game shows that he can move the ball. With receivers Corey Jones and Cody Thompson, he has some weapons that can pick up big chunks of yardage. Look for Ely to be efficient against the Cardinals, but he has shown he is susceptible to turnovers with two picks.
Edge: Toledo. Ely has been good enough this season to help lead the Rockets to a 3-0 start, and some of those secondaries have been better than Ball State's. The Cardinal defense is steadily improving, but Toledo has the edge in the passing game.
Ball State wide receivers vs. Toledo corners
Ball State: Jordan Williams does a lot to elevate this team's receiving corp. Without Williams, this would be a more lopsided matchup. He is currently on pace to rack up 1,042 yards and 9 touchdowns through the air to the tune of 15.1 yards per reception. Outside of Williams, KeVonn Mabon can make big plays while Corey Lacanaria and Chris Schillings contribute. Williams had a big game at Northwestern, and it's clear that Riley Neal trusts him as a receiver.
Toledo: Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 303 yards through the air per game, but the Rockets' secondary has only allowed one receiving touchdown in three games. Toledo also has 20 passes broken up and 24 more defensed through four games to go with four interceptions. Outside of Williams and possibly Mabon, it may be difficult for the Ball State receivers to get separation from the corners, but the Cardinals may have to throw the ball based on the Rockets' tough run defense.
Edge: Ball State. This is close, but Williams pushes the Cardinals to the advantage. He is rising up Ball State's career receiving leaderboard, and with Mabon's playmaking ability, the Cardinals should be able to move the ball against this secondary.
Ball State linebackers vs. Toledo running backs
Ball State: The Cardinals' linebackers make up one of its strongest units. Between senior Ben Ingle and ball-hawk Sean Wiggins, Ball State can punish opposing ball carriers. However, the stats don't look as bright as they allow 196.5 yards per game this season. The linebackers shined last week against Northwestern, as Ingle ended up with a MAC Co-Defensive Player of the Week award. Ball State's top two tacklers, along with fellow linebacker Zack Ryan, will look to slow one of the MAC's top runners.
Toledo: Kareem Hunt rushed for 133 yards against Iowa State, but missed last week with a hamstring injury. He has practiced this week but is questionable. If he can go, Ball State might have some trouble. If not, Toledo will rely on Damion James-Moore. Hunt returns this season after rushing 205 times for 1,650 yards and 16 touchdowns in the 2014 season. He is a legitimate NFL prospect and has made a habit of making opposing defenses look bad.
Edge: Toledo. Hunt has been a handful for many teams, and he ran for 142 yards and a touchdown on the Cardinals' defense last season. If he can't go, James-Moore will carry the load. The Ball State linebackers are good, but Hunt is one of the best players in the conference. Look for the Rockets to keep pounding the rock on the ground.