Bulls March into Indiana
Buffalo takes on Ball State in first MAC matchup
The Bulls head to Indiana focused on avenging their 17-point loss to Ball State last year, and prove that they are a better team. Courtesy of Sean Baker/ Ball State Photo Services
Mid-American Conference football: the rivalries are heated, the competition is elevated, and the teams simply don't like each other.
The Bulls (1-1) seek their second consecutive win this week, as they take on the Ball State Cardinals (1-1) in their first MAC game of the year.
The MAC is widely considered one of the most underrated conferences in the nation. Already this year, Ball State beat Indiana, Toledo took Ohio State to the wire, and Northern Illinois came within an inch from ousting Kansas.
Fans who have watched the Cardinals this year still aren't sure what to make of the team. In the squad's first matchup, Ball State pulled off an impressive 27-20 win over the Hoosiers. A week later, though, the Cardinals got hammered by South Florida, 37-7. Members of Ball State said they were humbled by the loss.
Nevertheless, South Florida is the No. 20 team in the nation – a tough opponent for anyone.
Consequently, the Bulls aren't sure which team they're going up against this weekend – the one that shocked Indiana, or the one that got throttled by a dominant South Florida team.
Regardless of which Ball State team shows up, the Bulls know they need to play as a team if they plan on winning.
Buffalo is loaded with individual stars – senior quarterback Chazz Anderson, sophomore running back Branden Oliver, and sophomore linebacker Khalil Mack, just to name a few. The Bulls will only succeed, however, if they continue to work as a unit.
"The most important thing is that we become a stronger team, that we become closer together," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "When we're out there, there are 11 players selling out for each other. Every play, every player.
"…I told [the squad] the best team is going to win the MAC. Not the team that has the best players, but the best team."
The outcome will likely depend on which team wins the turnover battle. Ball State is negative one in turnovers this year, while the Bulls are positive two.
"If you turn the ball over, you're not going to win," Quinn said. "There are a lot of teams right now that aren't where they want to be because of the turnover factor. So far, we've been pretty solid. We need to do a great job of taking care of the ball on the road."
Mack was last week's top performer on defense. His accomplishment garnered national attention, as he was named the MAC East Player of the Week and National Defensive Player of the Week by College Football Performance Awards. Naturally, teams are game planning to stop Mack.
"Teams are going to try to attack us and run away from Khalil and stop him from making big plays, and that's when everyone else needs to step up and make the big plays," said senior defensive tackle Richie Smith.
While most teams will try to run away from Mack, there's a chance the Cardinals won't try to run much at all.
Ball State's greatest strength lies in its passing game. Quarterback Keith Wenning leads an imposing attack against a Buffalo secondary that has surprised many with its strong play thus far in 2011.
The Cardinals' running game hasn't performed well this year. Ball State will most likely attempt to attack the Bulls through the air.
The in-conference bad blood will finally take center stage on Saturday at Muncie Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
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