Ohio has had a mixed bag of results in its October schedule.
It went on the road and beat a tough Buffalo team, it blew a two-possession halftime lead to Northern Illinois and then it outlasted Kent State.
Sitting atop of the Mid-American Conference East Division standings, the Bobcats will travel to Muncie, Indiana, where they will play against the MAC West Division-leading Ball State.
Here’s a closer look at the Cardinals.
All-time series: Ball State leads the series 15-10. The two programs first met in 1975 when the Bobcats defeated the Cardinals 10-0 in Athens. In their 2018 match up, the Bobcats defeated the Cardinals 52-14.
The Ball State report: The Cardinals have been a bit of surprise after eight weeks into the season. Originally picked to finish fifth place in the MAC West, Ball State (4-3, 3-0 MAC) hold the top spot and haven’t shown signs of stopping.
It had a solid nonconference schedule that featured two Power 5 schools and a strong Group of 5 school with Florida Atlantic.
The Cardinals have rattled off three consecutive division wins against NIU, Eastern Michigan and preseason favorite Toledo.
Their average win margin against their division foes has been by 17, though the outlier is their 52-14 win over the Rockets, but two of their games have been decided by one possession scores.
Led by fourth-year head coach Mike Neu (14-29), the Cardinals program is starting to hit their stride.
Ball State boasts the best scoring offense in the MAC with an average of 34.7 points per game and leads the conference with an average of 454.4 total yards per game.
Quarterback Drew Plitt is the focal point of the Cardinals offense. The redshirt junior leads the MAC with 16 touchdowns and is second in the conference with 1,868 passing yards and an average of 266.9 average passing yards per game.
Ball State is effective on the ground, too. Running back Caleb Huntley ranks fourth in the conference for with 101.6 average yards per game.
With such a balanced attack, the Bobcats’ defense will have its hands full Saturday, but so will the offense.
The Cardinals defense ranks first in the MAC with 11 interceptions.for interceptions. Linebacker Jordan Williams leads the conference with three fumble recoveries. That said, the Ball State defense knows how to generate turnovers – which hasn’t been a problem for Ohio’s offense this season.
How Ohio wins: This is perhaps the most complete MAC team Ohio has played at this point. For the Bobcats to win, it has to elevate themselves to that same level of completeness as Ball State. The offense has to be more than just Nathan Rourke, and the defense might have to play its best game of the season.
Stat to know: 10. It’s been 10 years since the Bobcats won at Ball State. The Bobcats have already snapped a 10-year skid this season when it won at Buffalo for the first time since 2009.
Player to watch: Ryan Rimmler, senior kicker, No. 97
Rimmler is one of the few kickers in the MAC who gives Ohio’s Louie Zervos a competition. The senior from Heidelberg, Germany, is 10-for-16 on kicks this year with his longest from 43 yards out. Special teams could be a key factor if the game is close for Ohio, who have played in five one-possession finishes this season.