What Black Knights fans need to know as Army concludes the Mid-American Conference portion of its schedule:
Who, where, when: Ball State (5-3, 3-2 MWC) at Army (1-6), Saturday, noon.
TV: CBS Sports Network (Ben Holden and Randy Cross have the call).
Gambling is illegal in most states: Ball State is a 4.5-point favorite.
Is it Build-A-Bear giveaway day at West Point?: Yes.
Make-or-break bowl run: At 1-6, the only way Army can reach this year’s Military Bowl, presented by Northrop Grumman, is a 5-0 run to close the season. While bowl organizers obviously can’t pick favorites, a service academy presence clearly would give the Dec. 27 game in Washington a bit more punch. But regardless, there will still be football, and you can donate tickets to service members here.
What about bowl mascot tweets?: Covered.
RB shuffle: Senior running back Jared Hassin, who racked up 1,013 yards as a sophomore but has seen limited action this season, has left the football team, according to Army football guru Sal Interdonato. Hassin had four carries for 24 yards this season, but saw some practice time with the first team as sophomore fullback Larry Dixon nursed a hamstring injury. Dixon missed last week’s loss to Eastern Michigan with the injury but has run on the side during early week practices and is likely to suit up Saturday.
Ground wars: Army’s ranks first in the nation with 389.14 rushing yards per game, and both senior quarterback Trent Steelman and junior running back Raymond Maples are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons. Dixon could get there, too, but would need to average a tick more than 100 yards per game the rest of the way. That trio will put pressure on Ball State senior linebackers Travis Freeman and Tony Martin, who are first and second, respectively, on the team in tackles but lead a defense geared toward stopping the high-octane passing games that populate the MAC.
Ball State basics: The Cardinals’ balanced attack ranks 19th in the nation in total offense (480.75 yards per game). The driving force for that success might be the offensive line — the five starters entered the season with 10 varsity letters among them and are giving up fewer than one sack per game. Junior quarterback Keith Wenning has thrown for more than 2,200 yards and 15 touchdowns this year behind that wall, and sophomore running back Jahwan Edwards is averaging 100 yards on the ground per game.
Youth movement: Army’s defensive depth chart boasts one senior — lineman Zach Watts — in a starting role. At least three freshmen have started on defense the last five games, according to Army’s weekly game notes; four get the nod this week.