Air Force opened up with a solid win in week 1 against an FCS opponent while Michigan went down to Dallas and was dismantled by the defending national champions. The greatest advantage that the Falcons have this week is that Michigan spent most of its spring and fall camps preparing for the showdown with Alabama and the Big Ten Conference slate and little time working on facing the option offense.
In 2010, Air Force played Oklahoma, who was faced with a similar situation after having to play Florida State in week 2. The Falcons fought hard only to fall to the Sooners 27-24 in a game that Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said afterward was very difficult and that he hoped he never had to play Air Force again.
For Air Force, past history does prove that winning this game is possible. Many coaches feel that the best time to face the option is in week 1 or in a bowl game, because there is a vast amount of practice time to prepare for the option. Unless of course you have faced the option in game action in the recent past, there is no way to simulate the precision. Michigan has not faced a true option offense in more than 10 years. However, Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke, in his second season in Ann Arbor did spend the two previous seasons at the helm of Mountain West foe San Diego State and is 1-1 vs. Troy Calhoun's Falcons. With the familiarity still there Hoke and his coaching staff will probably be ready, but will the players?
The Falcons will need to control the tempo and pace of the game early on offense and put up points. The Wolverines are frustrated coming off the pasting by Alabama and would like to set the tone early and put the game to bed. If the Falcons can execute their offense and build on the Michigan players mind set from week 1 they can control the time of possession and will have an advantage.
Defensively, well there is only one way to go here for the Falcons. The attacking style that coordinator Charlton Warren promised has to show up this week. There can be no fear either on behalf of the coaching staff or the players.
Michigan Senior quarterback Denard Robinson did not play well last week against the Crimson Tide. He was 11 of 26 for 200 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. He also carried the ball 10 times for only 27 yards. The Falcon defense needs to make things just as difficult this week. They have to pressure the Wolverine wide outs at the line and not play soft. Take chances. Send blitzes from all over the formation. But most importantly, don't be so worried about getting beat deep. It's going to happen, but the more shots you get on Robinson the less likely he will be to throw deep balls because he will be listening for footsteps.
We all know what the likely outcome of this game is going to be. Michigan is in a different class than Air Force. The Falcons have very little experience and depth is an issue all over the place. But the Falcons must not get caught up in the experience of playing in "The Big House". The offense needs to pound it and control the clock. The defense needs to play like their hair is on fire. Fly around the field and make play after play. The Michigan offense is like many offenses the Falcons see every week. Air Force's is not.
If the Falcons can capitalize on their advantages, create mistakes, and dictated the tempo of play to Michigan, the final score might surprise all of us.