Twelve days following the Mid-American Conference’s decision to hold a fall football season after initially deciding not to play Aug. 8, Ball State Football announced its 2020 regular season schedule Oct. 7.
Ball State will face all five of its MAC West Division opponents — Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan — as well as one MAC East Division foe, Miami (Ohio), to complete its 2020 regular season.
"It's been awesome to finally get a schedule and know exactly who we're going to play," head coach Mike Neu said.
The Cardinals will open their 2020 season Wednesday, Nov. 4 at Miami (Ohio) in the battle for the Red Bird Rivalry Trophy. For the past four seasons, the Cardinals have played the RedHawks to conclude their regular season, giving them a change of pace in their 2020 slate.
“I feel like every time we play [Miami (Ohio)], it’s a hard-fought game,” senior running back Caleb Huntley said. “We’re prepared and ready for it.”
Last season's meeting between the two teams saw the Cardinals defeat the RedHawks 41-27 at home. Huntley ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s season-ending victory, and redshirt senior quarterback Drew Plitt added 317 yards and three scores through the air.
"It's a rivalry," Neu said. "We respect [Miami (Ohio)], but at the same time, we're anxious to get on the field and play against somebody else."
Following their season-opening meeting against the RedHawks, the Cardinals welcome Eastern Michigan to Scheumann Stadium Wednesday, Nov. 11 for their 2020 home opener. A week later, the Cardinals will host Northern Illinois in the battle for the Bronze Stalk Trophy.
The Cardinals will end their 2020 regular season with three Saturday matchups — Nov. 28 at Toledo, Dec. 5 at Central Michigan and Dec. 12 hosting Western Michigan.
"From a preparation standpoint, now you know, 'Hey, this is who we are preparing for,'" Neu said. "We've got a lot of work to do between now and then to get ourselves ready to go."
All 12 MAC teams will play three midweek matchups to begin their conference-only schedule and three Saturday contests to end it. The conference championship is scheduled for Dec. 18 in Detroit.
While a six-game schedule only represents half of what the Cardinals play during a typical season, Huntley said he doesn’t envision many challenges with playing solely against conference opponents. In 2019, the Cardinals finished 4-2 against their 2020 opponents.
“We got to bounce back from our adversity and just go along with it,” Huntley said. “Just because it’s a little different doesn’t mean we can’t do what we need to do — go out there and win.”
Because of local restrictions on gatherings, Ball State will not allow public attendance or tailgating during the 2020 regular season. Players and coaches began undergoing antigen tests for COVID-19 Oct. 5, receiving four tests per week.
While the absence of fans may give Scheumann Stadium a different feel compared to previous seasons, Huntley said he is prepared to adapt and maintain a competitive mindset.
“It’s just going to be like practice to me,” Huntley said. “You work hard in practice — you’re going to work hard in games.”
When it reversed course on its decision not to play, the MAC became the 10th and final Football Bowl Subdivision conference to announce plans for a 2020 fall season. Other fall sports, including women’s volleyball, soccer, field hockey and men’s and women’s cross country, are tentatively scheduled to compete this spring.
"I'm excited that those three games to start the season are all on Wednesday night," Neu said. "We can get ourselves into that midweek schedule now as we're in training camp. We're already shifting our schedule to prepare our bodies to be at full speed and be ready to go."
Kickoff times for the Cardinals’ six matchups will be announced at a later date.
BALL STATE FOOTBALL 2020 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:
Wednesday, Nov. 4 — at Miami (Ohio) (Oxford, Ohio)
Last season’s meeting: Ball State, 41-27 (Nov. 29, 2019 in Muncie, Indiana)
Wednesday, Nov. 11 — vs. Eastern Michigan (Muncie, Indiana)
Last season’s meeting: Ball State, 29-23 (Oct. 12, 2019 in Ypsilanti, Michigan)
Wednesday, Nov. 18 — vs. Northern Illinois (Muncie, Indiana)
Last season’s meeting: Ball State, 27-20 (Oct. 5, 2019 in DeKalb, Illinois)
Saturday, Nov. 28 — at Toledo (Toledo, Ohio)
Last season’s meeting: Ball State, 52-14 (Oct. 19, 2019 in Muncie, Indiana)
Saturday, Dec. 5 — at Central Michigan (Mount Pleasant, Michigan)
Last season’s meeting: Central Michigan, 45-44 (Nov. 16, 2019 in Muncie, Indiana)
Saturday, Dec. 12 — vs. Western Michigan (Muncie, Indiana)
Last season’s meeting: Western Michigan, 35-31 (Nov. 5, 2019 in Kalamazoo, Michigan)