Last weekend wrapped up the Mountain division title race and took away the chance for the Air Force Falcons and New Mexico Lobos to battle for a winner-take-all division battle Saturday night in Albuquerque. But, this game still has a lot of implications for both teams. For Air Force, they are playing to host the Mountain West championship game. For New Mexico, they are playing for a winning record and a better bowl berth. So, the intensity will be high for both teams when they wrap up the regular season of the Mountain West Conference.
After putting up 37 points against Boise State and 35 points versus Utah State the past two weeks, there doesn't appear to be many problems with the Air Force offense right now. They have found a suddenly potent passing game the last two weeks, having thrown for almost 600 yards in those two games combined. However, last week against the Broncos the Falcons turned to the passing game too much, trying to force some throws and watching Boise State intercept quarterback Karson Roberts three times as they came back from a 34-13 deficit to cut the lead to 34-27 before the Falcons added a late key field goal to seal the win. Air Force has a great play action passing game, but the Broncos played some defensive games with the Falcons and forced them into some throws they shouldn't have made. Sticking with the running game and not forcing throws, especially if they get off to another big lead, will be a good plan for the Falcons this week.
Defensively, it will be strength on strength when the Falcons defense faces the New Mexico offense. Air Force has been extremely good against the run this season, only allowing 117.9 yards a game on the ground, which is good for third in the Mountain West and 16th in the country. New Mexico will counter with a dynamic rushing attack that averages 234.7 yards per game behind the triple threat attack featuring Lamar Jordan, Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson. Pressley is the home run hitter of the group, but all three are extremely dangerous and will test the run discipline of Air Force. Air Force will counter by bringing safety Weston Steelhammer to the line of scrimmage to help Alex Hansen, D.J. Dunn and the front seven to try and take the running option away from the Lobos. If Air Force can slow the running game down, it will go a long way in securing a Falcon victory.
Air Force has a lot at stake in this game, as a loss would likely put them on the road to San Diego next weekend to face the Aztecs in the Mountain West championship game. The Falcons have never played in the championship game before, and the Falcons currently hold a 12 game home winning streak and getting the game in Colorado Springs would be a huge boost for the Falcons to capture their first ever conference championship in football in team history. The Falcons are also looking to capture their first ever back to back 10 win seasons in team history. A win Saturday plus a victory in the championship game or the bowl game would make that a reality. Air Force has been riding a hot offense, which currently is scoring 34.4 points per game. With so much history riding on a victory Saturday, I am predicting a 34-21 Air Force victory over New Mexico.