No. 18 Utah is looking for their sixth win of the season Saturday to become bowl eligible as they face the Air Force Falcons. The Utes, however, have much bigger goals than making a bowl game. The (5-1) Utes are trying to climb the BCS standings to keep any hopes of returning to the BCS alive. They will face a very tough challenge in the (4-3) Air Force Falcons.
Air Force always plays Utah tough; Always. Last season the Falcons gave the undefeated Utes one of their biggest scares of the season. The Utes had to come from behind to beat the Falcons by seven in Falcon Stadium. In 2007, Air Force beat the Utes 24-14 in Rice-Eccles Stadium. In 2006, the Utes won another close game beating the Falcons by only three points. Need I say more? This is always a good, close game. Air Force matches up very well with Utah.
Don’t let the (4-3) record for Air Force fool you. All three of their losses have been by seven points or less, including a tough three point loss to TCU. Their other two losses have come on the road. They lost by seven to Minnesota and suffered a three point loss in overtime to Navy. They are coming off one of their best performances of the season holding Wyoming scoreless beating them 10-0.
Everyone knows Air Force loves to run the ball. They are ranked fourth in the nation averaging 279.3 yards per game on the ground. The Falcons run the triple-option to perfection. Jared Tew leads Air Force with 422 rushing yards on the season for 4 touchdowns. Savier Stevens is also very productive on the ground, with 359 rushing yards on the ground as well. They love to run a lot of misdirection plays to keep the defense guessing.
Unfortunately for Air Force, Utah can stop the run. Utah currently ranks 26th in the nation in total team defense allowing 306.7 yards per game. Last season the Utes held the Falcons to just 53 yards of rushing. Kyle Whittingham is great at devising defensive schemes to stop the Air Force attack. The Utes must execute and play all four quarters to beat a tough Falcon team that does not quit. Air Force is very tough and disciplined. Kyle Whittingham said the Utes must stay "assignment sound" on defense:
"When you prepare for the Air Force you think assignment football; that’s the first thing that comes to mind. We call it one eleventh defense where everyone on the field has their one job that they need to take care of, everyone do their one eleventh. If there are any breakdowns in that there is a potential big play. You have to match their discipline and toughness."
This Air Force team also has a very tough defense. They rank seventh in the nation in scoring defense, only allowing 11.9 points per game and fourth in passing defense allowing just 139.1 yards per game. They could pose a serious threat to quarterback Terrance Cain if he does not stay calm. Eddie Wide should continue to rush on limited carries likely staying around 18 rushes in this contest.
Utah has struggled all season long with completing drives. They must march down the field and score points on this tough Air Force defense. Utah is hoping that their crowd can get behind them and help their team execute and finish. They will face a tough defense similar to what they faced in Oregon. The Utes struggled moving the ball on the Ducks and may have difficulties with the Falcons.
The Utes will be playing this game without safety Joe Dale. The timing of this injury hurts the Utes because Dale is a good tackler which is very important for stopping the Falcons rushing attack. Justin Taplin-Ross will likely be Dale’s replacement. Taplin-Ross is a talented safety but a bit inexperienced. The Utes should be affected too much with the injury.
The Utes should win this one and improve to (6-1) on the season, but it will be not be easy by any means. They must execute and play a four tough quarters to beat this pesky Falcons team.