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Who’ll be Ballin’ on Saturday?

September 24, 2009

Auburn faces the Ball State Cardinals on Saturday evening in Jordan-Hare Stadium.  One year ago, this would have been a stiff test for the Tigers: the Cards ripped through the regular season at 12-0 and Auburn, well they were a far cry from that mark. However, we’re starting the second quarter of the 2009 season unblemished and heavily favored over the winless Indiana program better known as Ball U. For those of you who have nested underneath some dank bridge in a state that doesn’t have football, Ball State lost a coach and any star power after last season’s impressive run. What remains isn’t a pretty picture and has demonstrated virtually nothing so far in 2009.

The rest of the conference is over here this week, while Joe devotes a full article to the Tigers and what he believes will be a good tune up for the Vols next weekend.

Auburn gets some much needed help on defense this week with McKenzie back at the experiment better known as DE, Pybus returns to LB and Carter returns at DE. Anthony “Country Boy” Gulley has all but locked up punt returns and Eric Smith goes from bashing in the heads of fellow students after hours to precise wheel routes and big gains on offense. What does all this mean in relation to Ball U?

Let’s find out….

On offense this week, Auburn should return to running game running wild.  Too bad this wasn’t game 3 so future media guides would one day read, “Auburn began the 2009 campaign with three consecutive games with two backs rushing for more than 100 yards per game.” Ball State has surrendered an average of 22.3 points per game against such juggernauts as North Texas, New Hampshire and Army. The Cards give up approximately 204 rushing yards per game, but that number is tilted heavily to the 296 North Texas punched them with in week 1. I don’t see any real defensive standouts on this team and so I look for Coach Gus to pile on early and often with the running game in order to replace en masse by mid 3rd quarter. What we should see are a steady diet of about 5 different plays run out of the shape shifting formations Coach Gus has rolled out since arriving. The only real miscues I see are self-inflicted, thus it should be a 45+ point performance and above the going rate of 500 yards of offense per game. War Eagle indeed!

On defense the Tigers face a moribund bunch of red and white feathered midwestern farm birds. Their highest point total to date is 17 against Army. Their highest yardage output to date is 375 against the same. They have more passing yards in two contests and rushed for considerable more against only North Texas. What does all this have to do with Saturday? Probably not much considering  Auburn’s defense only shares one common denominator with any of Ball U’s previous opponents: 11 players on the field at one time. Senior MiQuale Lewis had a banner year last year with over 1700 rushing yards. This year, his best performance was against North Texas with 103 and a long of 31. Compare that against New Hampshire and Army and his average per rush is =/<1.5. So what do these Cardinals do to attack Auburn? Well, we should see a heavy dose of dual threat QB Kelly Page, a freshman who is second in rushing to the diminutive Lewis (5’6″). Page hasn’t done better than a 50% completion rate and tossed in 3 picks against Army to boot. However, he does have some mobile passes that went in excess of 40 yards. All of this is to say that Auburn has struggled against mobile QBs this season and past. Add in a shifty, smallish RB in Lewis and I think we’ll see Ball State try and keep things moving by, well, keeping the backfield moving. I seriously doubt either of the Cardinal QBs can air it out against Auburn, but if they take a page from our book and run, run, play action pass? We’ll see. Even if they do this with some success in the first half, the second half will be a different story – just as it has been this fall. I see the defense playing well, giving the offense plenty of time to dress rehearse the tempo game. I’ll even add a couple more interceptions by the Auburn squad because forcing Ball State to throw downfield only plays to our game plan, not theirs.

On special teams it is anyone’s guess. I’ll hope we don’t need to punt or cover punts and we have a dry day that allows plenty of deep kickoffs after each Auburn touchdown. At least that is what I have told myself all day and it has prevented me from having to develop any witty storyline here. Peace out.

Overall, Auburn wins this one big and early. The starters get some rest the coaches fine tune a few points, and this show goes on the road to Knoxville for a date with Kiffykins on October 3rd.

Ball U 13, Auburn 52.

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