Team preview: Ball State

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(All information as of June 20, 2008)


Every college football team strives to be part of a January bowl game. The International Bowl might not be at the top of every program's wish list, but when you have endured more than a decade of losing, really any postseason game will do.

Despite falling 52-30 to Rutgers in the Toronto-based bowl game, the experience of a 13th game was a reward for Ball State's first winning season since 1996.

"It was good for the 83rd team here at Ball State and those seniors," said head coach Brady Hoke, who received a raise and enhanced contract incentives, after the 7-6 campaign, on a deal that runs through 2010. "Obviously, it had been 12 years since Ball State had done it, but we still have a lot of goals to achieve."

The Cardinals took steps in the right direction in 2007, but now with a veteran-laced offense back, expectations have been raised even higher.

BSU wants the opportunity to play for a MAC Championship, something it missed out on last season after splitting the MAC West title with Central Michigan. The Chippewas earned the title trip though after winning the regular-season meeting, 58-38, on Ball State's home turf.

With junior Nate Davis headlining an explosive offense with nine starters back, the Cardinals would like nothing better than to end CMU's two-year reign at the top and extract some revenge in Michigan.

Ball State's offense set school records in points (379) and passing yards (3,413) while ranking 22nd in the country in passing and 31st in total offense (433.8 yards per game). BSU scored a school-record 51 touchdowns and ranked fourth in the nation in turnover margin (+17).

In addition to Davis, the Cardinals return its top two targets in senior receiver Dante Love and senior tight end Darius Hill, who were both first-team All-MAC selections.

The offensive line has four starters back, including fourth-year tackles Andre Ramsey and Robert Brewster and center Dan Gerberry from a unit that allowed 26 sacks a year ago.

BSU hopes the running game gets a boost with the return of junior MiQuale Lewis, who played in only five games before suffering a season-ending knee injury last season.