College Football Odds & Picks for Ball State vs. Miami (OH): Roll With the Road Dog Cardinals (Wednesday, Nov. 4)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Hall (11).
- The Ball State Cardinals will leave its friendly confines of Muncie on Wednesday to battle the Miami RedHawks in Ohio.
- Miami is coming off a conference title in 2019, while Stuckey thinks Ball State will earn that honor in 2020.
- Check out why Stuckey is bullish on the RedHawks heading into the season below.
Ball State Cardinals vs. Miami (OH) RedHawks
|Ball State Odds||+2 [BET NOW]|
|Miami (OH) Odds||-2 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+110/-130 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||55.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET|
|TV||CBS Sports Network|
Ball State Cardinals
There are high expectations in Muncie this season, and rightfully so with 17 seniors and five grad transfers ready to get to work in 2020. Ball State finished 5-7 last season, but three of those losses came by a combined eight points. The Cardinals realistically could have won all but one of their conference games in 2019.
Senior quarterback Drew Plitt returns under center. He will lead a very veteran offense that led the MAC in scoring last year.
The offensive line lost star right tackle Danny Pinter, who started all 24 games the past two years. However, Curtis Blackwell leads a unit that will have four senior starters. It excelled in run blocking last year but has some gaps in pass protection it can clean up.
Second Team All-Conference wideout Riley Miller graduated, but three of the top four receivers return, led by First Team All-MAC Justin Hall and junior Yo’Heinz Tyler. The Cardinals lost underrated running back Walter Fletcher, but retain the services of senior Caleb Huntley, who ran for 1,275 yards last year. The skill position weapons surrounding Plitt are plentiful.
Offensive coordinator Joey Lynch left for the same position at Colorado State. Former running backs coach and offensive assistant Kevin Lynch now holds that title. He shouldn’t have to change much with an extremely explosive and well-balanced offense that I have rated as the best in the MAC.
The defense let the Cardinals down last year despite benefiting from a high number of takeaways. You could see regression in that department — although they have two aggressive corners with great ball skills.
Fortunately for Ball State, 12 of the top 15 tacklers are back in the fold. While Ball State does have to replace inside backer Jacob White — Jordan Williams, Jaylin Thomas and Christian Albright all return to Muncie. Plus, Brandon Martin returns after missing all but one game last season. The linebacker group, which features three starting seniors and one junior, should be one of the better units in the conference.
The secondary also has plenty of experience and potential with those two aforementioned corners who received All-Conference honors in upperclassmen Antonio Phillips and Amechi Uzodinma. Phillips has been one of the best pure cover corners in all of college football over the past two years.
Plus, senior safety Bryce Cosby returns to man the back end along with safety Brett Anderson, who has enough experience to try to fill the void left by Ray Wilborn, who received a shot with the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason. All eight projected starters at linebacker and defensive back are upperclassmen.
The weakness of the 3-4 defense last season was the defensive line, which just couldn’t make tackles for loss or generate any pressure, ranking 123rd in Sack Rate . That, in turn, negatively impacted the secondary. If the defensive line can be a little more productive, this defense should take an enormous step forward in defensive coordinator Tyler Stockton’s second season. There’s just too much experience and talent not to.
This loaded Cardinals team is my pick to win the MAC. In an unprecedented year with reduced preparation, Ball State’s senior-laden roster and abundance of returning production is invaluable.
The Cardinals have the best offense in the conference, which means they don’t need the defense to dominate, but rather just marginally improve up front to help out the best cornerback tandem in the league. They have a real shot at winning their first MAC title in program history.
Despite having extremely poor offensive numbers in a conference generally dominated by offenses, Miami won the 2019 MAC Championship.
How did a very young RedHawks team with a freshman quarterback pull it off? Well, for starters, the RedHawks (8-6 overall) went 5-0 in one-possession games. That’s an incredible turnaround for what has been one of the worst teams in the country in one-possession games under head coach Chuck Martin.
Since they were young last year, they rank in the upper echelon of MAC teams in terms of returning production as they look to defend their title.
The RedHawks had a paltry Offensive Success Rate (113th) and finished 117th in yards per play. They will return 2019 MAC Freshman of the Year Brett Gabbert under center. Despite the accolades, the pocket passer posted underwhelming numbers in 2019, throwing for just over 2,400 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Miami hopes Gabbert will make a sophomore leap with all of his weapons back at his disposal. That includes both running backs, Jaylon Bester (who has been a little banged up in camp) and Tyre Shelton. The RedHawks also bring back their top three receivers, including senior Jack Sorenson, who led the team with 44 catches last year.
Poor offensive line play plagued the RedHawks last season, which wasn’t surprising for a group that started two freshmen and dealt with injuries. They ranked 122nd in Line Yards and 98th in Sack Rate. They do have two very talented seniors with NFL potential in center Danny Godlevske and left tackle Tommy Doyle. The other three projected starters got valuable experience last season but need more consistency.
If the offensive line plays better and Gabbert becomes a more efficient passer in his sophomore campaign, the offense features the weapons to post much more respectable numbers than last season.
Miami’s defense was ahead of its offense last year. For reference, the RedHawks finished 111th on offense and 77th on defense, per the final S&P rankings.
The defensive line could be pushed around, ranking 86th in Line Yards. That could become even more of an issue after losing stud defensive tackle Doug Costin, who is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, the unit excelled at getting after the quarterback, finishing with a top-20 Sack Rate. Defensive end Kameron Butler (14.5 TFL) is the star of the show. Butler also gets some help from the likes of Andrew Sharp, Ben Kimpler and Lonnie Phelps.
Miami will have to rely on youth to replace will backer Myles Reid — one of two primary linebackers last year in Miami’s 4-2-5 base. Nickel Bart Baratti will also be missed in run support and blitz packages.
The secondary looks like the strength of the defense. Martin will need to replace cornerback Travion Banks on one side, but senior Emmanuel Rugamba is a lockdown corner on the other. Meanwhile, the safety position is set with two returning starters in Sterling Weatherford and Mike Brown — a pair of reliable playmakers.
The offense started four true freshman in 2019, including one at quarterback, so you’d expect a jump in output for a group that returns 10 starters. That said, I still think the ceiling is fairly limited. The pass rush and secondary are the strength of a defense that lost some key pieces. It’s an undersized unit that will likely still struggle against the run.
I think the RedHawks are a prime regression candidate in 2020. Not only did they have Lady Luck on their side in close games, but they relied on their special teams to win the field-position battle and squeak out the coin flips. Well, that might not be as easy this year after losing star punter Kyle Kramer and star kicker Sam Sloman, who’s now starting for the Rams. They even need to find new returners and a new holder.
Miami’s special teams, which ranked 38th in S&P, could take a significant step back in 2020, which could swing all of those close wins from last year to close losses.
This is my favorite bet of opening week between a team I’m higher on than the market (Ball State) against a team I’m lower on Miami (Ohio), which I expect to see some serious negative regression a year after going 5-0 in one-possession games.
Meanwhile, Ball State lost three of its conference games by a combined eight points. The offense is excellent and I expect a major improvement on a defense that features two excellent cornerbacks on the outside. I make Ball State a favorite, so I scooped up the +3.5 earlier in the week. I still see value at +2 but would obviously try to hunt out the key number of +3 or buy to +3 on the cheap at -120 or better.