Head coach: Brady Hoke
Last season: The Cardinals played three Big 10 teams tough, including a nail biter at No. 2 Michigan that almost made "The Game of the Century" against Ohio State irrelevant. Ball State won three of four MAC games down the stretch to finish at 5-7 and 5-3 in the MAC. Its offense found a surge behind stud freshman quarterback Nate Davis. The Cardinals led the MAC in passing. The defense -- worst in the MAC against the pass, third-worst against the run -- is why the team only won five games.
Best returning player:
Offense: Davis' two favorite targets, tight end Darius Hill and receiver Dante Love, are good ones. But that's basically it. They need to find a deep threat at receiver. Both Hill and Love are possession receivers. Incoming running back MiQuale Lewis averaged 5.8 yards in limited action last season. Coach Hoke said he needs to find a fifth lineman, as well.
Defense: When asked about this unit's progress, Hoke talked about teaching defensive concepts during spring practice. That's coachspeak for: "We don't have much talent, but we're working to make bad players into serviceable contributors." The Cardinals do have a few good pieces. Defensive end Cortlan Booker registered 14 tackles for loss last season. Hoke is excited about linebacker Bryant Haines. They also boast one of the nation's best punters in Chris Miller. He will be a pro in two years.
Season outlook: They will open their renovated stadium during Week One versus Miami. They will lose at Nebraska and Army. If the Cardinals, however, can win one of two midseason games against Illinois and Indiana, they could be bowl eligible. They lucked out with crossover games against Buffalo and Miami.
Crucial game: Nov. 13 vs. Toledo (on ESPN2). Both teams will be looking for bowl eligibility at this point. With the national spotlight, it should be a great game.
Predicted record: 5-7 (including a win versus Toledo)
In the annual Captain Kangaroo vs. Mike Rasor softball matchup, I was made to look foolish.
The ZipsNation.org moderator pounded several hits. I was 0-4 with an error in the field.
What really matters? My team won, 10-7.