The Cards put up 380 yards on Indiana and about 220 on South Florida. That alone tells you what an improved unit is over last season.
I don't buy into the chants of "South Florida Should be a top 10 team" emanating from Muncie but they do deserve to be ranked. So the defense that beat up on Ball State last week is probably far better than Buffalo's or any that Buffalo faced. The performance against IU gave some insight into the nature of Ball State's offense when they are not tasting the curb care of a ranked team.
In that game Ball State was a run heavy team. They spent the Indiana game moving the ball on the ground 46 times to their 23 passes. If you were running for more than four and a half per carry you would probably lean towards the run as well.
The Running Game:
Cory Sykes out indefinitely and David Brown out for the season so the two backs who have stepped this season are Jahwan Edwards and Barrington Scott
Scott, who stands at 5-11 and weighs about 200 pounds, is the more flexible of the two. He is a bigger factor on second and third down plays and is a more dangerous target out of the backfield.
His counterpart, Jahwan Edwards, is built more like a power back at 5-10 and 232 pounds. They will throw his way on occasion but he is more typically given the ball on first down in an attempt to make second and third more manageable. During the IU game Edwards never touched the ball on third down; in those situations Scott did 20% of his total work
Any look at the Ball State running game has to keep Keith Wenning in mind. The coaching staff utilizes him quite a bit on the ground. Against the Hoosiers he carried the Ball eight times for 61 yards and a touchdown. The Bulls give up a lot of room in their pass rush and Wenning is a smart enough situational Quarterback to make teams pay for that kind of play.
The change of pace they have in Edwards and Scott, along with the ability of Wenning to make things happen may be the biggest challenge of the game for Buffalo. They gave up a ton of yards to Pitt, albeit 75 of those were in a garbage time touchdown. They also let Stony Brook march up and down the field a couple of times. BSU is a team that falls somewhere in the middle of those two schools and would be content to grind away on the ground.
The Passing Game:
That's not to say that all they can do is run. Wenning is a very efficient passer with a respectable arm. Again just looking at the Indiana Game:
Wenning seems to have been used, so far, in the same way that UB has used Chazz Anderson. Wenning has been a game manager who can, when needed, make a great pass. Anderson will throw the ball around more but neither quarterback has yet been the guy who takes a game over.
The biggest asset Wenning has brought to BSU so far this season is some very solid decision making, through two games he has yet to put the ball in an opposing defenders hands and is completing more than seventy percent of his passes.
Against Indiana about a third of Wenning's passes went for less than ten yards, with a full third of them going for less than five. At this point in the season Ball States passing game revolves mainly around getting the ball to his receivers and letting them do the work.
This presents something of a dilemma for the UB Secondary. Ball State's receivers are good enough to break a play if the corners play too tight but and Wenning is good enough to make you pay when that happens. The Bulls secondary, which is young, has had to back up the front seven against the run. They will have to resist biting on the play action.
The Cardinals running game is truly a source of concern, especially with Wenning's ability to move the ball on the ground. The Bulls have always had a lot of trouble with mobile quarterbacks, and this season they have been terrible against the run.
If Stony Brook, a very good running game for an FCS team, can hang more than 180 yards running on us BSU's tandem has the potential to match what Pitt did.