Both teams want to prove to the BCS world that they are contenders.
First, one must prove to the other that it is a contender.
Ball State (9-1, 6-0) plays at BCS No.18 Northern Illinois (9-0, 5-0) for first place in the Mid-American West Conference. The Cardinals are a half-game up on the Huskies by virtue of having played one more MAC game.
The Huskies did everything right last year to earn a BCS bowl bid, though it was not a BCS school. NIU lost to Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl. Ball State fell to Central Florida in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg.
There are several players from the area on both squads, including Northern Illinois quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch. The Mount Carmel grad said that playing in front of sold out Huskie Stadium on national TV against a top team is enough to get people excited.
"We are going to be playing in front of sold-out crowd for the fourth time this season and it is a Wednesday night, so a lot of people should be watching," Lynch said. "We also have to keep our focus on Ball state, which is a great football team. We also have to look at it as what we need to do to be successful. We have to do what Northern Illinois has done all year."
Lynch said at the Huskies weekly news conference that the rivalry, in which the winner gets "The Bronze Stalk Trophy" is a good one and expects a hard-fought game.
"Yeah, I know in the last two or three games we played them, they always gave us a great competition," Lynch said. "It went down to the wire in the last few seconds, so I think this rivalry is starting to build up."
He will also go against Ball State defensive tackle Nathan Ollie. They were teammates for one season at Mount Carmel.
"He is a great person and one of the top D-tackles in the league," Lynch said. "He is always around the ball. ... Nate is a competitor, a true competitor and he is always anxious to get on the field."
Lynch said you don't look ahead, but said many knew the MAC West title might come down to this game.
"In their season ender, they were one of the toughest opponents of the MAC last year, they gave us trouble at their place," Lynch said. "When the schedule came out, you try to take it only one game at the time, but everyone takes a peek a little farther and saw we had Ball State."
Ball State offensive tackle and E.C. Central grad Matthew Page said the Cardinals know the importance of this game.
"It is the most important game on our schedule because it is the next one," Page said. "They do have a great team and we expect to be in a fight. At the same time, we take it one play at a time, one series. You have to keep your focus.
"No doubt, these are two good programs and with a full house, there should be a lot of excitement."