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Air Force Falcons Flyover: Michigan State A Rare Opponent

Last week, it was announced that the Air Force Falcons-Michigan State Spartans football game would be picked up on ESPN as a 10:00 a.m. MT featured game. The game will either be on ESPN or ESPN2, depending on the outcome of the previous week's contest for both teams. Michigan State will host last year's National Runner-up Oregon while Air Force will play its first Mountain West Conference game against San Jose State.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Air Force Falcons football team could be flying into rarefied air this upcoming season when it heads to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans. By all accounts, Michigan State should be a top ten team when the polls are released in August. However, if Michigan State were to defeat Oregon the week prior to the match-up with Air Force, there is a higher than likely chance that Air Force will be facing a top five opponent when the two teams collide September 19th at 10:00 a.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2. That has only happened five times in the Falcons brief football history. Air Force currently has an 0-5 record in those match-ups.

Year

Opponent

Opp. Ranking

Result

Score

2001

Oklahoma

3

Loss

3-44

1991

Notre Dame

5

Loss

15-28

1989

Notre Dame

1

Loss

27-41

1988

Notre Dame

2

Loss

13-41

1984

BYU

5

Loss

25-30

The last time Air Force matched up against even a top ten team was almost five years ago. That game was a barn burner however as Oklahoma narrowly escaped a furious comeback by Air Force for a 27-24 victory. The Falcons also have a strong history matching up with the big time programs in bowl games, In their history, Air Force holds bowl victories over historically good programs like Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Texas and Ole Miss. This trip to East Lansing to face the Spartans will be a daunting task, but it is the kind of game that historically Air Force has more than held their own.

But, make no mistake, this Michigan State team will be one of the top teams in the nation. It starts with their quarterback, Connor Cook, who is getting Heisman Trophy and NFL top draft pick mentions already this off-season. Cook is a seasoned veteran, but he will be breaking in some newer weapons. Cook lost top target Tony Lippett from last year's Cotton Bowl winning team, Cook will have four targets returning however that caught at least 16 passes last season in Aaron Burbridge, R.J. Shelton, Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Josiah Price. The Spartan running game has been as strong as any in the nation and will look to returner Gerald Holmes along with freshmen Madre London and Larry Scott to find big chunks of yards on the ground behind a big offensive line.

On defense, the Spartans are as talented in the front seven as anyone in the nation. Linebackers Riley Bullough and Ed Davis along with defensive ends Lawrence Thomas and Shilique Calhoun will have the physical tools to cause problems for the Falcons option game. Where the Spartans might have problems is at cornerback, where converted safety Demetrious Cox and youngster Darian Hicks will look to replace players that moved on to the NFL. Air Force receivers Jalen Robinette and Garrett Brown might be key factors in this matchup come September.

Mark Dantonio has built a solid program at Michigan State, and his squad will present the Falcons with by far their most physically challenging game. The Falcons are possibly catching Michigan State at the right time however, as there are chances that the Spartans will either be on cloud nine after beating Oregon and overlook the Falcons or could be unfocused after losing to the Ducks and play the kind of undisciplined game that the Falcons will take advantage of like they have so many times before. Air Force also presents a different look than the Oregon spread offensive game. The triple option attack is something the Spartans don't face much and it is doubtful the Spartans have spent much time on it during spring ball or will devote much time to it during fall camp. Oregon has surely been the focus for the Spartans, and the Falcons have the perfect opportunity to be one of those famous trap teams come September 19th.