Thursday, Dec 31, 2009, 9:00 AM PST
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Air Force (7-5) will take on Houston (10-3) in an Armed Forces Bowl round two of sorts as a rematch of last year's game. The game will take place in Fort Worth, Texas which would seem like an advantage to Houston but Air Force should travel well enough with six Air Force installations around Texas. Air Force will try and keep the Mountain West Conference undefeated in bowl games this year. Conference USA is 2-1 on the bowl season. If you missed my statistical look at the game here is a link. Catch the preview after the jump...
The first battle to watch is the Houston offense versus the Air Force defense. Houston is the pass happy high scoring offense that put up 447 yards through the air on the arm of Case Keenum. That was good for #1 in the country, so was Air Force's pass defense allowing only 148 yards a game via the air. That was mostly due to their controlling the ball 31:44 a game but they do have some skill in the secondary. Air Force had 14 interceptions and BYU was the only team had more than 300 yards in the air against the Falcons. The Falcons held TCU, who averages 40 a game, to 20 points but that was wind, ice, and single digit weather aided and they won't be getting that advantage to slow down Case Keenum in Fort Worth. The only team to hold Houston to under 300 yards was Southern Methodist, however Keenum was still 25-36 on the game with a touchdown. This looks to be advantage Houston but Air Force should be able to keep it from getting out of hand with ball control and a timely turnover or two.
The second battle will be to see how well the triple option works for Air Force. This is a huge part of keeping Keenum and the Cougar offense on the sideline along with finishing drives to keep putting points on the board. Houston gives up 213 yards a game on the ground ranking them #111 in rushing defense. The Cougars gave up a 5 yard per carry average on the season. Air Force averaged 273 yards, good enough for 4th in the nation. The Falcons will go to the stable of Jared Tew, Asher Clark, and Savier Stephens. Tim Jefferson will lead the offense and can be dangerous in the passing game if the option game gets rolling. Look for some well timed play action passes to keep Houston honest in coverage.
Air Force played a lot of good teams close this year with overtime games against Utah and Navy along with that close game against TCU. It might just be too tough for them to keep up with the high scoring Cougars. The Falcons scored touchdowns on 51% of their trips to the red zone this year. For them to win they will need to get the ball in the end zone at a much higher rate. Houston put in touchdowns 67% of their trips to the red zone which allowed them to be such a high scoring offense.
The game matchups seem to favor Air Force but games are not played on stat sheets. Houston is #17 for a reason and also favored in this game. This should be another great bowl game to watch.
Houston wins if they can keep the triple option in check and limit turnovers.
Air Force wins if they can control the clock and finish drives with 7 points instead of 3 or zero.