The Washington Times - August 8, 2008, 10:10AM

Thumbing my nose at server issues to provide today’s five teams….

70. Ball State. There’s a lot to like in Middletown. Much of it has to do with the offense.

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Quarterback Nate Davis is back after throwing 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions for the Cardinals, who enjoyed their first winning season since 1996. Much of the talent around him is back as well.

If there is something to be concerned with, it’s an inability to stop the run. Ball State yielded more than 200 yards a game on the ground, though that number falls to 177.9 when you take out a 521-yard performance by Navy. Oh, and the Cardinals actually won that game, too.

Make no mistake: Ball State should go back to a bowl game and possesses the talent to win the MAC — not to mention beat in-state foe Indiana in the season’s fourth week.

69. Georgia Tech. Will it work? Why will it work? How might it not work? These are the questions people have of new coach Paul Johnson and his triple option offense.

They probably shouldn’t, assuming they have a little patience.

It’s very possible that the Yellow Jackets look bad early on against Boston College and Virginia Tech. It’s equally possible they could improve fast enough to put a scare (or more) into Georgia at the end of the season.

This is an investment year; Georgia Tech fans will have to give up the sure 7-5 season Chan Gailey would have produced in favor of greater things to come. And come they will, just not immediately.

68. Indiana. There’s a cluster of Big Ten teams that figure to finish in the 7-5/6-6 neighborhood.

The Hoosiers are probably positioned the best, thanks to their schedule. They play four nonconference home games. They miss Michigan and Ohio State for the second straight year. And they get fellow mid-pack opponents Iowa and Northwestern at home.

The story last year was to “Play 13” in honor of late coach Terry Hoeppner. Mission accomplished. Now that quarterback Kellen Lewis is back from suspension, Indiana has a decent chance to do it again.

67. Northwestern. Turnovers were a giant bugaboo for the Wildcats, arguably turning an impressive bowl season into a ho-hum 6-6. Well, relatively ho-hum; those back-to-back overtime defeats of Michigan State and Minnesota worked out well.

If quarterback C.J. Bacher can throw to the people in the right jersey color, Northwestern will be all right. He’d better do it early; the Wildcats could roll up a 4-0 start while playing Syracuse, Duke, Southern Illinois and Ohio.

More to the point: Northwestern better be a first-half team, because its final three games are against Ohio State, Michigan and Illinois. The countdown to six wins will be on quickly in Evanston, since chances are the Wildcats have until Nov. 1 to get there.

66. N.C. State. Patience, patience, Wolfpack fans. Tom O’Brien has a pretty good track record.

He just needs to find himself a quarterback … which is actually a refrain in Raleigh ever since Philip Rivers left.

Year Quarterback Passer rating ACC rank State’s NCAA rank/pass offense 
2004Jay Davis115.45th71st
2005Marcus Stone
113.48th92nd
2006Daniel Evans102.812th81st
2007Daniel Evans111.511th41st

The truth is, the Wolfpack’s decline since the Rivers Era has more to do with the inability to throw the ball well than anything else. Maybe it’s the quarterbacks. Maybe it’s the receivers. Maybe it’s both.

O’Brien’s staff did a fine job exporting quarterbacks worthy of at least carrying a clipboard to the NFL while at Boston College: Tim Hasselbeck, Brian St. Pierre (who, as Football Prospectus pointed out one year, is the patron saint of the kneeldown) and now Matt Ryan.

Chances are it will happen at N.C. State. And when he finds and develops such a quarterback (Mike Glennon is a definite candidate), the Wolfpack will start winning eight or nine games every year.

Patrick Stevens