The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Ball State Cardinals.
No. 116: Ball State Cardinals
Spring Game: April 14
Ball State Spring Status
It’s not a make-or-break season for Mike Neu, but the head man could use a good third season after starting 6-18.
Go ahead and blame it on the injuries.
The Ball State season was derailed by a slew of problems, losing star RB James Gilbert to a thumb injury and QB Riley Neal to a knee injury, and it showed.
The offense that was solid in a building 2016 season fell off the map in 2017, scoring 109 fewer points, coming up with 21 or fewer nine times.
But the offense is now loaded with options, the line should be fine, and the defense has the veterans to be better, especially in the secondary.
Ball State Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Quarterback, mainly the backup job. Neal is the best option – even with the 12 picks thrown in 2016 – if his leg is 100% and ready to go. Jack Milas is done after throwing just two touchdown passes with eight picks, but Drew Pitt and Zack Blair return after seeing a little bit of time.
Pitt had a little bit of success over the second half of last year, but the offense struggled to put points on the board. Enter Hank Hughes, a transfer from Texas A&M who’ll get every shot, with good mobility and the upside to be the top backup.
Ball State Biggest Issue
The downfield passing game. The punting game was among the worst in college football – a killer for a team that’s going to need good field position – and the special teams as a whole struggled. However, the team has to come up with something from the passing game after finishing dead last in the country in yards per completion.
The loss of Neal was the problem for a passing attack that averaged just 5.2 yards per throw and a pathetic 9.32 yards per catch. It’s up to the receivers – the top five return – to do more with the ball in their hands, too.
Ball State Biggest Positive
It’s all a building process. Neu went young over the last few years, and the payoff should come soon. Eight of the offensive starters at the end of last year were underclassmen, and now Neal and Gilbert are back.
Star pass rusher Anthony Wimbush might be gone from the D line, but seven starters were underclassmen, as was punter Nathan Snyder. Talent is talent no matter what the age, but at least the returning team is full of veterans.
Really, Why Are The Ball State Cardinals Ranked Here?
There’s a shot Ball State becomes the MAC’s biggest surprise with all the returning talent and all the upside with a few of the key parts back, but there’s still a long way to go after losing the last nine games in ugly blowouts. When you close out the season dropping those nine by a total of 387 to 115 and an average of 43 to 12.7, there’s still a problem.