Midweek Mid-American Conference games are notoriously unpredictable, but sometimes it’s best not to overthink it.
Ball State (2-5, 0-3 MAC) hosts Toledo (6-1, 3-0 MAC) 7 p.m. Thursday in a battle of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Cardinals are on a four-game losing streak, while the Rockets have won three consecutive games.
Ball State passing offense vs. Toledo secondary
The Cardinals could be down to their third-string quarterback. Junior Riley Neal hasn’t played since Sept. 16, and he’s out again. Head coach Mike Neu said redshirt senior Jack Milas will start if healthy, but he hurt his elbow against Central Michigan and, as of practice Tuesday (Wednesday’s practice was closed to the media) he wasn’t taking reps with the first team.
That leaves redshirt sophomore Zack Blair as the likely starter against a Toledo pass defense that holds opponents to 215.4 pass yards per game and a 55.6 percent completion rate.
Ball State secondary vs. Toledo QB Logan Woodside
Toledo senior quarterback Logan Woodside leads the MAC with 289.7 passing yards per game, 296.6 total yards per game and a 166.1 passer rating. He’s also tied for the conference lead with 16 passing touchdowns against two interceptions and is second with a 64.2 percent completion rate.
The Cardinals have the second-worst passer rating against (141.5) in the MAC.
Ball State front seven vs. Toledo run offense
With as much attention as Woodside gets, Toledo’s run game shouldn’t be overlooked. The Rockets are third in the MAC with 211.7 yards per game and have three running backs — Terry Swanson, Art Thompkins and Shakif Seymore — with at least 65 carries and 5.0 yards per carry.
Ball State’s been solid against the run, but Toledo’s balance should clear out some running lanes.
Ball State offensive line vs. Toledo front seven
The one thing Toledo hasn’t done much of this season is pressure the quarterback. The Rockets only have seven sacks in seven games, the fewest in the MAC.
Ball State’s offensive line, however, has been battling injuries all season and allowed the second-most sacks in the conference this year (20).
Ball State lost its last three games by a combined score of 142-15 and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Sept. 23.
Now the Cardinals take on arguably the best team in the conference.
Contact Colin Grylls with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @colin_grylls.