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Three Key Matchups in Air Force vs. Western Michigan Bowl Game

There are three distinctive battles that will shape the outcome of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this coming Saturday between Air Force and Western Michigan

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Game plans are being finalized and both the Air Force Falcons and Western Michigan Broncos are heading to Boise, ID as the final days leading up to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl get shorter and shorter. The Air Force Falcons are scheduled to arrive in Boise Tuesday night, as they finish up their semester responsibilities as Head Coach Troy Calhoun prefers the team take their finals at the Academy. Air Force has been preparing for the matchup however, and with starting quarterback Kale Pearson practicing and preparing for what will be his final game as a member of the football team, the Falcons are heading to the bowl game looking to gain their 10th victory, which will be an outstanding improvement of eight victories over last years squad. When looking at the game, there are three key match-ups that will be sure to affect the outcome of the game for both the Falcons and the Broncos.

Jalen Robinette and Garrett Brown vs. Ronald Zamort and Donald Celsicar

The main headline going into the game will be the seventh ranked rushing offense in the nation of Air Force taking on a Western Michigan defense that has faced two run heavy offenses in Northern Illinois and Toledo, losing both games while giving up an average of over six yards a carry. However, the Falcons have dangerous outside weapons in Robinette and Brown. Robinette is coming off a fantastic sophomore campaign, where he caught 41 passes for 763 yards, the best for a Falcons receiver since 2005. Robinette is physically unlike few receivers in Air Force history, as he has the type of body that could make you think he plays for the Denver Broncos. His running mate is junior Garrett Brown, who plays the hybrid receiver/running back position for the offense. He will be the pitch man on some option plays and he is the leading touchdown receiver for the team with six. If the Broncos commit the safeties to stop the run game, Robinette and Brown will have chances to make big plays in the passing game like they have all season. The Broncos cornerback duo of Zamort and Celsicar are quality cover men, as they both intercepted four passes this year as well as having 21 passes defensed each. ADVANTAGE: Air Force

Jarvion Franklin vs. Jordan Pierce

When the Broncos have the ball, they are going to give the opposition a heavy dose of freshman sensation Franklin. The MAC Offensive and Freshman of the Year was stellar, coming up with 1,525 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns in his first year in college football. Franklin does not provide much in the passing game, but as a superior running threat he opens up play action passing opportunities for the Broncos. Franklin will face a stiff test with the Air Force rush defense, who is led by inside linebacker Pierce. The Falcons rank 34th in the nation in run defense, only surrendering 140.3 yards per game. That total is particularly impressive when you factor in that the Falcons have faced Navy and Army who are two of the top rushing teams in the nation as well as great individual rushers in players like Jay Ajayi of Boise State and Dee Hart of Colorado State. The Falcons have won all four of those games, in large part to taking away the rushing attack of the opponent. Pierce has been a huge factor in that, as the senior registered 107 tackles on the season, as well as register 16.5 tackles for loss, good for second in the Mountain West. Franklin will be the focus of the Falcons defensive game plan, and in 2014 that has been a recipe of success for Air Force. ADVANTAGE: Air Force

Zach Terrell vs. Weston Steelhammer

If the Falcons are able to stifle the Broncos running attack, that will put the ball in quarterback Terrell's hands. The sophomore signal caller had a good 2014 campaign, throwing for 3,146 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Falcons achilles heel in 2014 has been their pass defense, as they surrender 256 yards a game through the air, which ranks 98th in the nation. Where the Falcons have hurt the opponents, and where the Broncos appear to be somewhat vulnerable, is the ability for the Falcons to turnover their opponents, particularly sophomore safety Steelhammer. The Falcons first team all-conference defensive back has a knack for the ball, as he ranked ninth nationally with his six interceptions on the season. The Falcons use Steelhammer all over the field, from blitzing to coverage and he has responded in a big way for Air Force. His ball hawking abilities could test Terrell, who did throw 13 interceptions on the year. When the Falcons turn the opponent over and give the offense a short field, it is generally a winning formula for Air Force, whose biggest win of the year versus Boise State was spurred by seven force turnovers. ADVANTAGE: Push