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Air Force @ Utah State: The Aggies Fight the Air ... on the Ground

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USU opens conference play with a tough Air Force squad

Utah State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Location: Logan, UT (Maverik Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, September 22nd at 8:15 p.m. (MDT)

Television: ESPN2

Streaming: N/A

Radio: Aggie Sports Network (92.3 FM local)

Head-to-Head: AF has a 4-2 series lead, including a win in the last three meetings. USU will be looking for a win against the Falcons for the first time since 2014.

What to look for:

Has a Mostly Easy Non-Conference Schedule Softened USU?

- An inspiring effort against Michigan State preceded two lopsided victories over New Mexico State and Tennessee Tech. It’s pretty obvious NMSU and TTU aren’t anywhere near the talent level of most Mountain West teams. The Air Force Falcons are a solid MWC opponent. They’re not quite elite, yet they’re not abysmal either. Aggie fans should wonder if beating up two cupcakes has softened USU and has tampered their expectations for what should be a talented Air Force squad.

Forcing Turnovers

- I know I talk about this every week, but it seems important for this game, especially seeing as how AFA has given up three turnovers through two games. That accounts for just one interception, but that was by QB Isaiah Sanders, who has thrown only 13 passes so far in the season. Opposing that is a Utah State defense that has nine takeaways; four fumble recoveries and five interceptions. The turnover battle will once again be a key in Utah State achieving victory.

Controlling Air Force’s Run Offense

- For a team with “Air” literally in their name they’ve only thrown the ball 21 times through their first two games. Air Force, like the other service academies, finds its success through the option. Through two games, Air Force has had 15 different rushers, the leader being Cole Fagan. Fagan has 34 carries for 147 rush yards and one touchdown. Keep the run in check, and the Falcons will be forced to either pass or get creative; both of which can easily lead to mistakes.

WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY

- Here’s some words from MWCConnection’s DGrasmick, who covers Air Force, about the game:

o “It’s always been a tight contest between these teams. Air Force really struggled in pass defense in their last game, so Jordan Love and Utah State receivers have to be licking their chops. The team that loses this game is going to have an uphill battle in the very competitive Mountain division.”

PREDICTION:

The Aggies come into conference play red-hot in all three phases of the game. The biggest key will be how they compete with a team of a higher talent level than their past two opponents. Air Force will run the ball all night, so tightening up on the line and forcing AFA to the air will go a long way in earning a win. If QB Jordan Love can keep the mistakes to a bare minimum and the rushing offense can keep doing what it has been, this should be a fun one with a ton of rushing yards for both schools. It’ll be close.

Utah State 31, Air Force 21

Follow Alex Eiden (UnderDogsAlways) on Twitter @alexyatta_ and follow the MountainWestConnection @MWCConnection