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Utah State Perspective: Air Force vs Utah State

Three things to look at and a score prediction for Falcons at Aggies

Eli Lucero, Herald Journal via Associated Press

Utah State got a big win against New Mexico last week, 41-27. New Mexico, like Utah State, has struggled this season and is still looking for their first win of the season. There is a major storyline coming out of this game, Jaylen Warren is the latest Aggie to enter the transfer portal. Warren led the team in rushing yards, 252 yards on 39 carriers, and also scored three touchdowns. He provided a lot of big plays for Utah State but it’s going to have to be the next man up mentality for the Aggies this week as Air Force poses a much more difficult challenge than New Mexico.

Air Force at Utah State

Location: Logan, Utah (Maverik Stadium)

Line: Air Force (-11.5)

Date/Time: Thursday, December 3rd; 9:30 PM EST

Television: CBS Sports Network

Head-to-Head: Air Force leads the series 5-3. The Falcons and Aggies first played in 1969, a 38-13 win for Air Fore. The next time Utah State and Air Force saw each other was during Utah States first season in the Mountain West during the 2013 season, a 52-20 win for the Aggies and their first in the series. Utah State also won the 2014 matchup 34-16. From 2015-2017, Utah State lost three straight to the Aggies in 2015 (35-28), 2016 (27-20), and 2017 (38-35). From 2018-2019, Utah State traded games, going Utah State’s way in 2018 (42-32) and the Falcon’s way in 2019 (31-7).

Three Things to Watch For

1. Can Utah State keep up the offensive explosion?

Utah State surprised last weekend with a huge offensive game against the Lobos. They scored 21 points on offense in the third quarter and they were able to move the ball enough to pull of the victory. They need to do the same thing against Air Force, they need to get the tight ends involved and it probably wouldn’t hurt to call some trick plays to confuse an Air Force defense that excluding the Boise State game has done a good job this season. This is going to be a much bigger challenge for the Aggies. And speaking of offensive explosion...

2. Does Utah State figure something out in the running game?

As previously mentioned, Jaylen Warren has entered the transfer portal so the Aggies will more than likely look to Devonta’e-Henry-Cole. The Aggies could also look into a combination of Cole and John Gentry, similar to what they did with Jaylen Warren and Cole. Getting the run game going is going to be important to get things going in the passing game, as they did against New Mexico. One of the creative ways to do this that presented itself against the Lobos is by using Andrew Peasley. He had 11 carriers for 118 yards and a touchdown against New Mexico and finding creative running plays for Peasley will open plays for the passing game. Running the ball will also give Utah State an opportunity to slow things down and keep the ball away from the Falcons and their triple option offense. The Aggies showed they can move the ball and it wouldn’t be surprising if they continued to move the ball but it will be the Aggies responsibility to continue development.

3. Can the Aggies continue to prevent big plays?

One of the reasons that Utah State was able to get a nice win last Thursday night was because they were able to prevent big plays on defense. Going against an Air Force team that has had quite a bit of success on offense this season, excluding the San Jose State game, Utah State needs to continue to be very alert on defense. They have had problems with letting big plays develop and this especially showed against Boise State and San Diego State at the beginning of the season. If Utah State struggles to stop the running game and is not able to move the ball on offense, this game is going to get out of hand quickly. However, if the Aggies can stop big runs from happening and can create stops and turnovers, this should be a close game late.

Analysis

This is an interesting and complicated game to predict. Utah State needs to have another big game offensively but they also need to do well defensively. The Aggies haven’t done well in many games this year and despite a nice performance last week, it’s hard to tell if Utah State is going to have another game like they did against New Mexico.

They do have a more confident quarterback now in Andrew Peasley and there is a lot the Aggies could do with him. Air Force has struggled defensively at points this season defending the pass and getting the tight ends and more of the wide receivers involved is going to be key for a Utah State victory. Andrew Peasley can also be used in the running game so Utah State could have a very creative offensive game plan come Thursday night.

If it wasn’t for a third quarter explosion, the game last weekend would have been much closer. Air Force is 11 point favorites and while the game will probably be closer than that as the Aggies have shown definite signs of improvement, Air Force should be able to run the ball just enough and maybe even get a big play or two to get a win against the Aggies and remain in the hunt for possible bowl eligibility.

Utah State 28, Air Force 35