Were it not for an early-season loss to North Texas, Ball State might be in a position similar to Northern Illinois' -- ranked with an opportunity to steal an at-large BCS bid. Instead, the Cardinals are flying under the radar; they're undefeated in league play and have plenty still to play for, beginning with their game against Central Michigan on Wednesday night.
The Chippewas are heavy underdogs, but they've proven this season that they are capable of being competitive against some of the better teams in the league -- they upended Ohio on the road in October. For the most part, though, CMU's season has been a struggle.
Ball State shouldn't have trouble scoring points and putting this one away, but then again, this is the MAC.
Rankings and records: Ball State checks in at 8-1 (5-0) and received some votes in both major polls this week. Unranked Central Michigan is 3-5 (2-2). The Cardinals hold a 20-16-1 edge in the all-time series.
Vegas: Ball State opened as a 21.5-point favorite, while the over/under opened at 58.
Weather: A high of 59 in Muncie is expected, and there's an 80 percent chance of rain.
Three names to know
Keith Wenning -- Nobody in the MAC has more passing yards than Ball State's Wenning, who is averaging 318.3 yards passing per game. He also leads the league with 23 touchdown tosses, and he's only been intercepted five times.
Titus Davis -- CMU's passing offense isn't as potent as Ball State's, leaving fewer opportunities for receivers like Davis, though he's made the most of the touches he's gotten. He has 627 receiving yards and ranks second in the MAC with an average of 18.4 yards per reception.
Willie Snead -- Ball State has two of the top five receivers in the MAC, led by Snead, who already has more than 1,000 yards receiving. He leads the league in that category as well as receptions (65) and touchdown grabs (10).
Two things at stake
Ball State has a potential trip to the MAC title game on the line every time it steps on the field. The Cardinals are tied for first place in the West Division with Northern Illinois, and they don't want to head into their showdown with the Huskies coming off a demoralizing loss.
Central Michigan needs to win at least three of its last four games to get bowl eligible, and obviously a loss to Ball State would leave the Chips with no margin for error the rest of the way. An upset on the road over the Cardinals would be the biggest win of the season for CMU.
How to witness
TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET
Online streaming: WatchESPN
For additional coverage, head over to MAC blog Hustle Belt.