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FAU Owls vs Ball State Cardinals: Preview & Prediction

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If FAU is to make a bowl game this season, a win in Muncie is a must.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Florida Atlantic Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 2:00 p.m., Saturday, September 14

Location: Muncie, Ohio

TV: ESPN+

Records: Ball State 1-1, FAU 0-2

Series Record: Ball State leads 1-0

Betting Line: FAU -2.5, O/U 64


Ball State Outlook

Fourth-year head coach Mike Neu entered this season on the hot season and through two games, it looks like the decision to retain him will come down to the final month. Neu has a record 11-27 as the head coach and has finished no better than 4-8.

You could make the case that the best win in Neu’s career was the one Ball State had at FAU in his first season in 2016. The Ball State team we will see Saturday afternoon, will very much resemble the one in 2016: An offense that prefers to be balanced, a defense filled with experience.

This season is supposed to be where Neu reaps the benefits of experience and talent but when QB Riley Hunter and RB James Gilbert transferred to play for a P5 team, that hurt BSU’s ceiling.

Drew Plitt and Caleb Huntley have fared well as their replacements in the early going. Pitt passed for 439 yards and 6 touchdowns against Fordham last week in a blowout win. Hunter has rushed for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, with 81 yards coming against Indiana in the season opener.

Defensively BSU’s biggest weakness is their run defense but that’s largely due to the experience they have in the secondary with safeties Bryce Cosby, Brett Anderson II, and Myles Hannah. Ball State has 4 INTs this season and Amechi Uzodinma II has leads the team with 2 INTs, with one in each game this year.

FAU Outlook

I wouldn’t say this is the biggest game of the season for FAU, but it’s a really important swing game for bowl prospects. We’ve seen FAU play poorly in non-conference, then run through C-USA under Lane Kiffin but this year feels different. There’s not a lot of surefire difference makers on the team right now.

Given how tough UCF and Ohio State are, Ball State serves as the perfect barometer for what we should expect from the Owls going forward.

The offensive line has a good opportunity to prove their worth. Chris Robison has an opportunity to prove last year’s road struggles are a thing of the past. The defense has an opportunity to prove they can take over a game and exert their will for all four quarters, not just a half. Lane Kiffin has a chance to prove that the offense this year won’t be a disaster.

You get where I’m going. This is a show-me game. This may sound snobby, but FAU just shouldn’t lose to Ball State. Ever. In 2016 when FAU lost to the Cardinals at home, that seemed to be the point of no return for Charlie Partridge as the head coach. Months later Partridge was fired.

This weekend’s game has the same vibe. At 0-2, and C-USA being a mess, FAU could be in store for a big year or a forgettable season. A win is a must.

Prediction

The common theme from Ohio State and UCF is the speed and size they displayed in the front seven. Ball State has none of that. If the offensive line has truly made strides, this is the game where we see Larry McCammon rush for over 100 yards. With Robison able to thrive off of play action, Harrison Bryant and John Raine have a big day. The defense locks it down for a full game and forces at least two turnovers.

FAU 44 Ball State 28