By: Dane Massey
Ball State Sports Link
Coming off a 31-21 victory over Western Illinois in their home opener, the Cardinals will look to pull off the upset as they get set to battle 11th ranked Penn State at Happy Valley.
After starting this season ranked at No. 19, the Nittany Lions pulled off a stunning victory over the No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.
Saturday’s FS1 game is the first meeting in series history. The Cardinals are 5-25 against ranked opponents all-time, but have won the last two opportunities after defeating No. 23 Buffalo in the 2020 MAC Championship (38-28) and No. 19 San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl (34-13) last season.
The Cardinals are currently riding an eight-game winning streak, which is tied for the sixth-longest streak in program history and is the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS. Ball State trails only Alabama (15), Oklahoma (nine) and Texas A&M (nine) for the longest-active winning streak in the country.
In addition to the FS1 national television coverage, Sports Link Digital broadcast the game live from State College via @bsusportslink social media platforms.
WATCH THE OFFENSE GO TO WORK
Penn State has one of the best defenses in college football right now, holding Wisconsin to only 12 points and forcing two interceptions by quarterback Graham Mertz.
Drew Plitt, who was solid in the season opener against the Leathernecks, looks to have a breakout game against Penn State, and help generate some momentum for the Cardinals.
He will be alongside Justin Hall, who had a field day with Western Illinois, hauling in 137 yards and two touchdowns on just eight receptions. Hall leads all active college football players in career receptions with 265, a Ball State school record.
He has recorded at least one catch in 44 straight games (every game of his career), the longest active streak in the country at the FBS level. Hall needs 182 yards to break Dante Ridgeway’s record of 3,030 career receiving years at Ball State.
The running game was also impressive, as Will Jones and Carson Steele combined for 172 yards and two scores. The entire offense will be a key component to watch for the matchup as it may have to go shot-for-shot with Penn State.
STARS AT LINEBACKER
Defensively, the Cardinals have a ton of players to keep an eye on, and it all starts with the secondary.
The top three defensive performers against the Leathernecks (Jaylin Thomas, Christian Albright and Jimmy Daw) were all linebackers. Along with the rest of the secondary, this should be a very interesting matchup against the Nittany Lions.
Thomas totaled nine tackles. Redshirt freshman DL Tavion Woodard recorded two sacks.
The Wisconsin defense held the Nittany Lions to just two scores and held quarterback Sean Clifford to a measly 54% completion rate. Not to mention, running back Noah Cain only found 48 yards on the ground.
If Ball State’s linebackers can challenge Penn State in the run game, they could make this a very interesting game.