Air Force takes on Georgia Tech in what will be a battle of the rush in Monday's Independence Bowl. Georgia Tech and Air Force are number one and two nationally when it comes to running the ball; Tech averages 327 while Air Force averages 318 per game. They both average just over 5.6 yards per attempt and run the ball 58 times per game. The rushing game will be the story of the game and the obligatory jokes will be 'how fast will this game be' or 'how many passes will either team throw.'
These offense are both potent and have big play ability within the triple option offense. Air Force had as 26 rushing plays of 20 or more yards on the season which was good for 12th in the nation while Georgia Tech lead the nation with 43 rushing plays of 20 plus yards. Look for big plays from both sides, especially since both teams rushing defense are not good at all. Air Force is 100th and Georgia Tech came in at 79th in the nation in stopping the run.
Individual players to watch for on Air Force are first and foremost quarterback Tim Jefferson. He is the choreographer of the Troy Calhoun offense while being second on the team in rushing behind running back Asher Clark. The big stat with Jefferson is his 15 touchdowns which more than triples Nathan Walker who is second in rushing touchdowns with six. Air Force runs the ball with so many different players and ended up with eight that had more then 100 yards on the season. One back Air Force is hoping to get back for the bowl game is Jared Tew who broke his right fibula in the San Diego State game back on Oct. 16th. Tew performed well in early bowl practices and while Tew was sounding like he was going to play the coaches were cautiously optimistic about Tew's status for Monday's game.
While the Falcon offense is predicated on rushing the ball over 50 times a game they have a passing game that is quite good. Quarterback Tim Jefferson is one of the few Academy signal callers that can throw a nice deep ball. Jefferson averages 20.47 yards per attempt, so the Georgia Tech defense better stay focused and not have their safeties cheat by sneaking up to stop the run.
Georgia Tech's offense has been out with quarterback Joshua Nesbitt since Nov. 4th with a broken arm and while he wanted to suit up one more time for his team Nesbitt is not going to be able to play against Air Force. Nesbitt's replacement has been Tevin Washington has proven to be a competent back-up and has been able to run Paul Johnson's offense fairly well. The downside with Washington is that he does not have the deep ball touch that Nesbitt has.
In addition to Nesbitt being out, Georgia Tech will be without seven players for all or part of Monday's game. Four were suspended for not qualifying academically. Those four players include senior defensive end Robert Hall and senior linebacker Anthony Barnes as well as sophomore wide receiver Stephen Hill and senior safety Mario Edwards, both listed as starters on the latest depth chart.
The other three players who will have to sit out the first half for breaking their Friday night curfew, and they are are senior defensive end Anthony Egbuniwe, junior defensive back Michael Peterson and freshman defensive back Louis Young. All three of those players saw action in all 12 games this year with Egbyniwe being the most effective player out.
The Tech offense will be in trouble by missing wide receiver Stephen Hill who was the teams leading reception. Hill was their deep threat, but for Georgia Tech's sake they hope to not have to throw the ball that often. They will be running the ball at Air Force with Anthony Allen who has rushed for 1,228 yards as well as scoring six touchdowns. Georgia Tech goes just as deep as Air Force when using various rushers in each and every game.
The coaching matchup will be interesting since Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson has went 6-1 against Air Force when he was at Navy and could be seen as an advantage against Air Force.
While this game will feature quite a bit of offense, the Air Force secondary is one of the best in the country and could be the difference if Georgia Tech is forced to pass. The Falcons have defensive back Reggie Rembert who was named to the American Football Coaches Association first team.
The only guarantee in this game is that there will be at least 600 yards of rushing combined by both teams.