They were quite the Cinderella. The Ball State Cardinals, who just last year were only 7-5 and had gone to their first bowl game in more than a decade, got through the first 12 games of the college football season unscathed and had risen all the way to a #12 national ranking. They had a quarterback, Nate Davis, who quietly is becoming one of the best players in college footbal. And all they had to do to finish off this miracle regular season was win the MAC championship game on Friday in Detroit.
But unfortunately, the clock has struck midnight for Ball State. The Cardinals coughed the ball up four times and lost the MAC championship game, 42-24, to Buffalo. They did not play like they had all season, blowing out all challengers and fighting their way to a Top 15 ranking.
This game wasn't even supposed to matter for Ball State. They had all but ordered their plane tickets to at least the Motor City Bowl, getting ready to play that "no respect" card and make their case for a high ranking. But they overlooked Buffalo, who just looked like a better team out their.
But let's not forget what Ball State accomplished this season. They went undefeated during a brutal 12 game regular season, in a day and age when most national champions can't even do that. They showed that you don't have to be a football-factory to win football games. And they gained a lot of respect for that wonderful Mid-American Conference, a very often forgotten league in a time where the WAC and Mountain West dominate the Mid-Major discussion. And they'll still have a chance to show their stuff in whichever bowl game they will fall to.
So maybe Ball State didn't win that BCS berth for themselves this year. But what they did earn was respect. And maybe next year, or sometime in the future, a MAC team will make their way into the BCS. And they'll have Ball State to thank for it.