Game Preview: Colgate Raiders at Air Force Falcons

Cooper Neill

Air Force's season kicks off this Saturday vs. the Colgate Raiders of the Patriot League (FCS)

Teams: Colgate Raiders at Air Force Falcons

WHEN: Saturday, August 31, 3 p.m. ET

WHERE: Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, CO (46,692)

CONFERENCES: Patriot League vs. MWC

2013 SEASON: Colgate (0-0) (0-0); Air Force (0-0) (0-0)

HEAD COACHES: Dick Biddle, Colgate (133-65); Troy Calhoun, Air Force (34-18)

TV COVERAGE: ROOT SPORTS

WEB STREAMING: GoAirForceFalcons.com

SERIES RECORD:First meeting between the two schools

LAST MEETING: N/A

WEB SITES: GoColgateRaiders.com | GoAirForceFalcons.com

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OVERVIEW

Air Force is coming off its first losing season since 2006, but are still looking to make a bowl for the sixth consecutive season. This year that won't be easy, however. The Mountain West's level of competition has certainly improved, and the Falcons play in the Mountain Division -- with annual dates versus Boise State and Utah State, most notably. They also have to replace quarterback QB Conner Dietz, who accounted for the majority of the team's offense last year. Colgate, on the other hand, still has record-setting quarterback Gavin McCarney and is looking to repeat as Patriot League champs. The Raiders must figure out a way to reinvigorate the running game though, after losing Jordan McCord to graduation.

KEY PLAYERS

Kale Pearson, QB/Air Force: Pearson won the starting job, but has some awful big shoes to fill in trying to replace Dietz. In game action last year, he showed himself to be a less-than-ideal passer (four picks), though that's not really why he's here. Pearson will be expected to run the ball well, and by all accounts, he's done that plenty in camp. To shake off some potential nerves, this will be a nice way to ease into his new role.

Alex Hansen, DE/Air Force: Hansen's just a sophomore, yet he's already the lifeblood of the Air Force pass rush. If the Falcons hope the shut down Colgate, they'll need Hansen to keep containment on McCarney (more on him below) and force him to rush his throws. Hansen has shown himself to be pretty quick and physical and will need to wrap up well, lest the mobile passer gets out of the pocket.

Gavin McCarney, QB/Colgate: Until a running back steps up, McCarney will be this team's entire offense, so the core of Air Force's gameplan should be keeping containment first and foremost. He can and will take off at will (over 1,500 yards rushing last year), but he's also a fairly competent passer too, throwing for over 2,300 yards and 15 scores. It'll be a tough balance for AFA, who's thin and inexperienced at linebacker, which should give McCarney some breaks.

Kris Kent, LB/Colgate: Kent is the team's top returning tackler and will be the key to slowing down the Falcons' run-centric offense. At 6'1" and 180 pounds, he's certainly undersized, but uses his quickness to get after ball-carriers. He also spent a good deal of time behind the line of scrimmage last year, with four sacks and eight TFLs, meaning Air Force should be prepared for him to blitz on clear passing plays.

OUTLOOK

Air Force has a size issue up front (as is the case with all of the service academies), but against FCS Colgate, that's much less pronounced. So long as Pearson can run the ball effectively, the Falcons should be able to win the contest comfortably. Altitude may also be a factor for Colgate, as their schedule typically takes them around the Northeast instead. Quarterback Gavin McCarney may be able to keep the Raiders hanging around for a quarter or so, but there's little chance for an upset.

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