No. 17 Western Michigan will be Ball State's biggest challenge yet

<p>Ball State’s linebacker Sean Wiggins lines up for the snap during halftime of the game against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 17. Ball State won 41-14. Grace Ramey // DN</p>

Ball State’s linebacker Sean Wiggins lines up for the snap during halftime of the game against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 17. Ball State won 41-14. Grace Ramey // DN

Ball State vs. Western Michigan

Time: 8 p.m.

Date: Nov. 1

Place: Scheumann Stadium

Watch: ESPN2

Chances like this don't come around often for Ball State.

In fact, a ranked team hasn't visited Scheumann Stadium since the 2003 season. The last time a top-20 team came to Muncie was in 1997.

Both of those droughts will end Nov. 1, as No. 17 Western Michigan (8-0, 4-0 MAC) comes to town for a Mid-American Conference showdown with Ball State (4-4, 1-3 MAC). The Broncos are the last undefeated team in the Group of 5 conferences.

With it being a midweek game, the Cardinals have had the benefit of a few extra days to prepare for one of the best teams in the nation.

"They know what they do, and they do it well," said senior linebacker Sean Wiggins. "I wouldn't say they're simple, but they're definitely not as much of a window-dressing team as we've played. They're gonna come out and try to hit us in the mouth, and we're gonna try to hit them right back."

Cardinals' head coach Mike Neu echoed those sentiments — the Broncos don't run anything crazy schematically. But there's no question that it works.

Western Michigan averages 502.1 yards and 44.4 points per game, both top-15 marks in the nation. The Broncos have scored 40 or more points in six of their eight games so far this year.

And the key to it all is that they don't make very many mistakes. Their plus-12 turnover margin ranks second in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"Every single week, if you win the turnover margin you give yourself a great chance to win," Neu said. "You have to give them credit. They've been very consistent week in and week out, and they're playing very complimentary football."

A perfect example of Western Michigan's complementary style was last season's 54-7 lopsided win over Ball State in which the Broncos outgained the Cardinals 711-152.

Quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, wideout Corey Davis had 163 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and tailbacks Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin combined for 211 rushing yards and three scores. The bad news for Ball State? All of the aforementioned players are back and terrorizing defenses this season.

"They line up very sound, have good football players and execute at a high level," said defensive coordinator Tim Daoust. "You go to take away one weapon, they're gonna get you with the other. You have to line up and be sound and play good football."

A win in this game would obviously be huge for Ball State, which is still two wins away from bowl eligibility. 

And the Cardinals can look at the MAC slate from last week as motivation — Buffalo, Ohio, Kent State and Miami won in games that they weren't favored.

"It's why you play right here, man. These are the moments you love," Neu said. "Having an opportunity to play a team that's 8-0, in your building, in your house on national TV — that's exciting."

When No. 18 Toledo came into Ball State's house in 1997, it was handed a 35-3 upset loss. The Cardinals are hoping history repeats itself.

"I love big games," Wiggins said. "It's a chance for you to get your name out there, and get your school's name out there by competing against one of the best teams. And it'll be on ESPN2, so everybody's gonna be watching."

Ball State and Western Michigan will kick off at 8 p.m.


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