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Logan Lookahead: Air Force

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Aggies face their toughest MW opponent yet in the Falcons

“Logan Lookahead” by Danny Stevens

When: Saturday, October 26th @8:15pm MDT

Where: Falcon Stadium – Colorado Springs, CO

TV: ESPN2

Radio: Aggie Sports Network

Last Time Out: The Aggies outlasted the Falcons in Logan last season, 42-32.

Utah State (4-2, 3-0 MW) takes on a divisional opponent on Saturday as they travel to take on Air Force (5-2, 3-1 MW). The Aggies are coming off of a dominant defensive performance against Nevada, and they’ll need the defense to be running on all cylinders again this week after Air Force laid 56 points on Hawaii in a win last week.

Let’s take a closer look at this matchup:

OFFENSE:

Similar to Nevada, AF’s biggest weakness is it’s passing defense

- The Falcons rank in the bottom half of FBS (74th) in passing yards allowed per game with 231.6. This is obviously quite the coup for the likes of Jordan Love and company. In their game against Hawaii, AF were just as susceptible to giving up the explosion plays as the Warriors were, allowing multiple passing plays of 20+ yards.

- The question is whether the Aggies can take advantage of Air Force’s defensive weakness, unlike their effort against Nevada where Love only amassed 169 pass yards and no receiver got more than 53 receiving yards (and that was Mariner, who had a 48-yard catch in the 4th). We’ve seen what the passing game can do and we know what Jordan Love can do. Being that AF’s run game is as solid as it is (104 rush ypg, 20th in nation), churning out yardage and points through the air is a necessity to win this contest.

Which USU RB gets the workload this week?

- Whoever it is, be it Bright or Warren or both, will have their work cut out for them. As mentioned just a moment ago, Air Force has a top-20 run defense. The hope here is that the Aggies can attack the secondary so often and so successfully that Air Force begins to take their focus there, leaving room for the solid Aggie RB duo to make plays. Both Bright and Warren are on virtually equal footing in the stats department, as they both have four rushing TDs and Bright’s winning the rush yard battle by just 37 yards, 445 to 408. Seeing this leads to the conclusion that the offensive coaching staff will continue to go with a balanced attack, maybe one back in the first half and another after halftime.

Utah State v Wake Forest
Can the Aggies run game help out it’s passing game?
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

DEFENSE:

It’s all about the run D…

- If you weren’t aware, Air Force runs an option offense. Crazy, right? Well it just so happens that the strongest piece of the defensive puzzle for Utah State is their run defense. They’ve got TFL machine Tipa Galeai and leader David Woodward at linebacker who are good enough to stop the run on their own. Add in other guys like Devon Anderson and Kevin Meitzenheimer and this unit can definitely give the AF offense fits.

Air Force v Boise State
RB Taven Birdow is just as good as AF #1 RB Remsburg
Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

…And limiting the big plays

- The Falcons hit a ton of big yardage plays against Hawaii that either put them in the endzone or set them up to get there. Air Force’s run game hit on gains of 24, 61, and 64 yards while the offense garnered big plays of 22, 39, and 75 yards. If those big gains didn’t hit, Air Force may not have won that game. The Aggies secondary is its weakest link, so Shaq Bond and company will have to get their ducks in a row and play lockdown defense. They can’t get sleepy when Air Force continually runs it with their option offense or they will get caught off guard and they will get burned. They keep the explosive plays to a minimum and the Aggies can win this game and win it by a large margin.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

- Just like last week, there is a clear blueprint for a win on Saturday night for the Aggies. The Falcon secondary is prone to big plays and good QB play. If Jordan Love can make a connection with one or two receivers, they could have a field day. The other half to this formula for success is, quite clearly, stopping the Air Force run game. It’s not just that, however, as their passing game has some talent to it as well. We saw against Hawaii last week that a mediocre secondary can make you pay against this team, so the USU coverage unit has to be on their toes all night. If the Aggies can follow these steps, and there’s no reason to think they can’t, they’ll win this game

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Utah State 38, Air Force 28

What do you think of the matchup? Let us know in the comments.

Follow Alex on Twitter @thesportswizard and follow the Mountain West Connection @MWCConnection