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Poke Preview Week 6: Air Force Falcons

(4-0) Cowboys bring undefeated record to Colorado Springs, begin Conference play against Air Force (4-1)

Wyoming takes the field at the start of the Air Force Falcons football game against the Wyoming Cowboys at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. (Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post) Photo By Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images

What: Wyoming vs. Air Force

When: Saturday, October 9, 2021, 5:00 pm MT

Where: Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, CO

Network: CBSSN

Line: Air Force - 5.0 (as of 10/8 via William Hill Sportsbook)

History: The Air Force Falcons lead the all-time series against the Pokes 29-26-3. The Falcons won the last meeting in 2019, with the Cowboys winning the previous three before then.

The sixth week of the college football season is among us, which means most teams across the country will have conference play in full-swing. The Cowboys open up the Mountain West against an Air Force team with which they’ve had plenty of close bouts in the past. The Falcons will travel back home to Falcon Stadium this week following their matchup with New Mexico where they took care of business, routing the Lobos 38-10. The Cowboys will come into Colorado Springs being fully rested from their bye week, looking to begin conference play on a good note and continue their undefeated season.

A pivotal matchup - who’s for real?

The implications coming into this one will be very big for both sides of this storied Mountain division rivalry. Troy Calhoun’s Air Force team has already suffered a conference loss to Utah State this season, falling in an all-out slugfest by a score of 49-45 on September 18th. A loss to Wyoming this week would put their hopes of winning the Mountain West in major jeopardy with tough matchups on the horizon against Boise State and #25 San Diego State. For Craig Bohl and the Pokes, his group would enjoy nothing more than starting conference play with a win and continuing their undefeated season.

So this matchup bears the question, who’s for real?

Three Keys to a Cowboy Victory:

STOP THE RUN

If the Wyoming Cowboys are for real, they will undoubtedly need to halt the Falcon rush attack on Saturday. The reason I sit here and type “STOP THE RUN” in all caps, is because it is the single most important thing that the Cowboys can do in order to come out victorious. The triple-option rush attack led by Falcon QB Haaziq Daniels, RB Brad Roberts, and FBs Emmanuel Michel & Omar Fattah, has combined for 367 rushing yards per game this season, and totaled 22 rushing touchdowns on the year. Both statistics rank 1st in the entire FBS. Meanwhile, the offense as a whole averages about 444 yards per game when you factor in passing. Daniels also only throws the ball on average 6.6 times per game, so if Cowboy LBs Chad Muma and Easton Gibbs can stay disciplined and allow the Falcon rush minimal leverage, the Pokes should put themselves in a good enough position to compete on Saturday.

Force turnovers

While the Cowboys have done a relatively good job of conserving the football this season, the Falcons might be even better at doing so. Air Force is one of the very best in the nation when it comes to taking care of the ball. They’ve only turned over the football two times in their first five games to open the season, so if the Cowboys can figure out a way to punch the ball free on any occasion, it could help them turn the tide on Saturday.

Win the possession battle:

When you run the ball, the clock ticks down. Air Force prides itself on the triple option. Therefore, when the triple option is working to perfection, it allows your offense to control the game clock, and with that, time of possession. Looking at this season, Air Force’s average time of possession per game has been about 62.5%, which means for the most part they have been able to run their offense effectively. In the lone loss Air Force had this year against Utah State, the Aggies were able to limit Air Force’s time of possession to about 55%. So, the longer the Pokes keep the Falcon offense off the field, the better the likelihood of a victory is. This will take a combined balanced effort on the part of Wyoming on both sides of the ball. Xazavian Valladay and the offense will have to run the ball efficiently, and Sean Chambers will have to limit his mistakes. Muma, Gibbs and the defense will also have to stall Falcon drives by limiting first downs. It won’t be easy with how deceptive the Falcons are on offense, but there is no Cowboy victory without doing so.

Prediction:

Both teams have a lot of things going for them. The Cowboys are coming off a bye week, which means they’ve had two weeks to prepare for the triple option on defense, and how to attack on offense. The Falcons are coming off a huge win at New Mexico and will be returning back home. Each matchup of these two teams for the past few years has resulted in a close game, and I expect nothing different in 2021. I’ll take the unpopular opinion in this game and pick my Cowboys to emerge victorious.

Wyoming 31

Air Force 30