BY CONNOR ONION | Radio Voice of Ball State Football on WCRD 91.3 FM
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Ball State & The Rankings
The #18 Western Michigan Broncos (8-0, 4-0) were the beneficiary of a loss from another Broncos last Saturday. Boise State’s 30-28 loss to Wyoming left Western Michigan as the final undefeated ‘Group of Five’ team.
If Western Michigan can remain undefeated, it would likely receive an invitation to one of the prestigious New Year’s Six Bowls: the Rose, Sugar, Peach, Orange, Cotton and Fiesta.
Western Michigan still has to handle business the next four weeks and it begins with Ball State Tuesday night.
Ball State (4-4, 1-3) has plenty of experience against Top 25 competition.
In 2015, Ball State saw two ranked opponents: #17 Texas A&M and #17 Northwestern.
The Cardinals were outmatched against A&M, but gave themselves a chance in a five-point loss to Northwestern.
While not ranked at the time, Toledo came to Scheumann Stadium in Week 4 last year, half way through its ascent to a 7-0 start and a Top 25 ranking.
The last time Ball State hosted a ranked team was the season finale in 2003, when #22 Bowling Green bludgeoned the Cardinals 41-14.
There is some positive history to pull from for Ball State. On the night Barack Obama was elected for a second presidential term in 2012, Ball State outscored #23 Toledo by a touchdown.
The last Cardinals team to be ranked was in 2008 when they climbed as high as 12th in the national polls.
Tuesday night unequivocally features the two best running backs in the conference. Arguably, it presents the viewer or listener with the best three backs in the MAC.
Ball State’s James Gilbert leads all MAC rushers with 987 yards on the ground. Western Michigan’s burly back Jarvion Franklin isn’t far behind, ranking second with 909 yards. Both rank within the Top 15 in the nation in rushing.
The Western Michigan backfield also spotlights the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year, Jamauri Bogan.
Gilbert has notched four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, topped off by his 264-yard showing against Buffalo two weeks ago.
Gilbert, initially a Western Michigan commit, has separated himself from what was once a three-man backfield, more than doubling the carries of both Darian Green and Teddy Williamson.
Meanwhile, Franklin one-upped Gilbert two weeks ago. While Gilbert trampled Buffalo, Franklin buried Akron with a Western Michigan school record 281-yard rushing day.
Ball State has witnessed the workhorse mentality of Franklin first hand. As a freshman in 2014, Franklin left Muncie with 160 yards, three touchdowns and a Bronco win.
Bogan has battled an ankle injury the last four weeks after starting the season with a quartet of 100-yard games. Since the injury, Bogan has missed a game, and ran for three, nine, and 29 yards in the ensuing games.
“Big moment for our program,” Ball State Head Coach Mike Neu said about playing in prime time on ESPN2 Tuesday night.
With 10 days in between games, the coaching staff for Ball State hit the road following Ball State’s loss to Akron two Saturday’s ago.
“We need to win the next two days,” Neu said.
Neu’s reference meant winning in recruiting both in Muncie and across the country.
While most of his assistants hit the road to check in on prospects for the class of 2017 and 2018, some of the seldom-used players on the current roster, including redshirts, had a chance to prove themselves in a live football situation for the first time.
With only one other college football game on the slate Tuesday night, Ball State gets national attention on ESPN2 to bolster the brand of its program — and maybe grab the national headlines with an upset of the Broncos.