MUNCIE – When Ball State dismantled Army last month and earned its sixth victory of the football season, by rule, it made the Cardinals eligible to earn a postseason berth. However, what last season taught Ball State was that having six wins didn’t guarantee the program anything.
The Cardinals finished 6-6 a year ago and were one of two eligible teams nationally that were left home in December. So as his team continues to build upon that surprising season from 2011, and win even more games this season, Ball State coach Pete Lembo has taken a simplistic approach to worrying about being left out again.
“We really try to get our players to focus on what they can control,” Lembo said. “And not worry about things that they can’t. So we can’t worry about a selection of teams for bowls, but we know that what we can control is going out and winning a football game, and obviously that is going to improve and enhance our chances with every win that we can get at this point.”
The Cardinals (6-3, 3-2 Mid-American Conference) have a definite opportunity of enhancing their postseason chances on Tuesday, as they travel to MAC-power Toledo (8 p.m. ESPN2).
As last season’s disregard of Lembo’s team showed, there are still non-believers out there when it comes to awarding of Ball State a bowl bid. Beating the Rockets (8-1, 5-0) on national television would go a long way in gaining the program some national credibility.
“Nobody is satisfied with being 6-3,” Lembo said. “We’ve got to keep pushing. We have a lot more that we’d like to accomplish this week and the next two after that.”
Lembo stressed that he is focused on the daunting challenge of beating Toledo; however, in regards to the postseason, he is adamant that this year’s squad is more deserving of playing in a bowl game than last year’s team was.
“I don’t think that there is any question that we are a better team this year,” Lembo said. “We’re a more attractive team, regardless of how many wins we end up with. With our offense (21st nationally in total offense) playing the way that it is, with our special teams, our defense getting better, I do think that we would be much more attractive and competitive in a postseason game than we would’ve been last year.”
The bowls that MAC teams are eligible to participate in include the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 15, Boise, Idaho), Little Caesar’s Bowl (Dec. 26, Detroit), and GoDaddy.com Bowl (Jan. 6, Mobile, Ala.). In addition to those three primary bowl games, the conference has secondary agreements with four other bowls if they choose to select a MAC team over a squad from a BCS conference.
Those secondary agreements are with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 15, Albuquerque), Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl (Dec. 21, St. Petersburg), TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 1, Dallas), and BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 5, Birmingham).
“I think that we are a better team than we were and in some ways a more attractive team,” Lembo said. “That’s because of the way that some of our guys are playing, some of the statistics, and the other thing, this year, that you have to keep in mind is that there’s more teams not eligible to go to bowl games. So this year could play out very differently.”