Through the first seven contests of 2022, Ball State had a winning record. But then the Cardinals dropped four of their last five MAC games and finished the year 5-7.
Ball State wants to play at a high level more consistently this year, but finding some momentum to start the year isn’t going to be easy.
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Ball State Football’s MAC Title Odds
Ball State’s odds to win the MAC are +3000, via BetMGM.
Ball State Football’s Over/Under Win Total
Ball State’s win total Over/Under is 5.5, with Under 5.5 at -130 and Over 5.5 at +110.
Ball State Football’s Schedule
9/2 at Kentucky
9/9 at Georgia
9/16 vs Indiana State
9/23 vs Georgia Southern
9/30 at Western Michigan
10/7 at Eastern Michigan
10/14 vs Toledo
10/21 vs Central Michigan
11/1 at Bowling Green
11/7 at Northern Illinois
11/18 vs Kent State
11/25 vs Miami (Ohio)
Bold indicates MAC contests.
Key Ball State Football Returners
2022 All-MAC 1st Team
TE Brady Hunt
OL Ethan Crowe
LB Clayton Coll
DB Jordan Riley
Marquez Cooper And Brady Hunt Provide Star Power For Ball State Offense
Ball State’s leading rusher, passer, and receiver from last year are no longer on the roster in 2023. But that opens up opportunities for others.
John Paddock threw for 2,719 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions last season, but he transferred to Illinois. Redshirt sophomore Kiael Kelly is the only other player on the roster who threw a pass for the Cardinals in 2022.
Texas State transfer quarterback Layne Hatcher seems to have a good opportunity to take over the starting role. The former Alabama passer totaled 2,653 total yards and 19 touchdowns last year. In his previous three seasons at Arkansas State, he tallied 7,427 yards, which was fourth all-time in the program’s record books, and 65 touchdowns, which was third. He was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2019 and made the all-conference honorable mention list in 2020.
Carson Steele, who led the conference with 1,556 rushing yards in 2022, departed for UCLA. But the Cardinals added another MAC star running back in Marquez Cooper. He was second in the league with 1,331 rushing yards to go with 13 touchdowns for Kent State in 2022.
Jayshon Jackson, an All-MAC second-team wideout in 2022, and Yo’Heinz Tyler, Ball State’s two leading receivers, are gone. But they do bring back a star pass catcher in first-team all-conference tight end Brady Hunt, who tallied 498 yards and five touchdowns on 46 receptions in 2022.
And Ball State’s offensive line should be one of the best units in the MAC in 2023. Ethan Crowe made the all-conference second team at center, and others like Corey Stewart and Damon Kaylor return with starting experience. The Cardinals tallied the fifth-most rushing yards in the MAC (155.7 per game) and allowed 14 sacks, the second-fewest in the league last year.
Clayton Coll And Jordan Riley Leading Charge For Ball State Defense
Ball State was fairly average on defense last season, but the Cardinals do have some continuity on that side of the ball as seven of their top 11 tacklers are back in 2023.
That includes All-MAC linebacker Clayton Coll, who led the team and was seventh in the MAC with 110 tackles, and defensive back Jordan Riley, who was second on the team with 95 tackles and tied for a team-high 12 pass breakups.
Cole Pearce was incredibly disruptive for opposing offenses last year. The redshirt senior linebacker was fifth in the MAC with 14 tackles for loss while adding 85 total tackles and five sacks.
Tavion Woodard is also expected to take another step forward. The redshirt junior defensive lineman added five TFLs, four sacks, and 35 total tackles in 2023.
The Cardinals allowed the fifth-fewest points per game in the MAC (26.9) but gave up the third-most yards per game (419.6) last year. They are bound to make some improvements on the defensive side of the ball with all of the promising talent they have coming back.
Ball State Football Season Prediction
The Cardinals aren’t going to win the MAC in 2023 and will endure another losing season.
The most important factor for Ball State’s performance will be quarterback production. If Layne Hatcher can step in and play at an all-conference level, or if someone else will emerge, then this may be a different story for Ball State.
Ball State’s non-conference slate begins with road trips to Kentucky and Georgia, and neither of those games will be easy. Then the Cardinals host Indiana State of the FCS and Georgia Southern, which is going to be a crucial matchup for Ball State.
But if the Cardinals can’t defeat Georgia Southern, finding five wins in their conference schedule isn’t much easier. They have to face Toledo, Eastern Michigan, and Miami (Ohio), which are all in the top five in MAC Championship odds. Central Michigan, Bowling Green, and Northern Illinois all should be close matchups on paper, but the last two of those games will be on the road, which isn’t favorable for the Cardinals.
Ball State is going to be stout defensively, but the team doesn’t appear to have enough offensive firepower to get above .500.