Air Force will travel to Fort Collins for a 5 PM game against Colorado State on Saturday at Canvas Stadium. Coming off two consecutive close losses, the Falcons will be trying to avoid a descent into a mediocre season, and facilitate a chance at a conference championship. With a win and a Utah State loss to San Jose State Saturday, the Falcons could find themselves in a three-way tie for the Mountain Division lead. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
The current line on the game is Falcons -2.5. Virtually all analytic services and prognosticators foresee a very tight matchup, and favor the Falcons. The bad news for Air Force fans is that the Falcons have lost 3 out of 4 games that have been decided by one score. The tendency to make big mistakes in tense situations has taken some air out of what could have been a very good season. The good news is that over the last four games the Falcons have played against the Rams, they have been known to also make big mistakes. This year they have played better in that department, but also get penalized at over twice the rate as the Falcons.
Falcon Keys to the Game
Fewer Mistakes = Victory
During the four game winning streak this season, the Falcons were able to score on their first possession each time. The same was the case during the loss to Utah State when the Falcons were able to score 45 points. The losses to San Diego State and Army were marked by bad pitches on the second play of the game that resulted in fumbles the Falcons were able to recover, but stalled out the drives. The most likely cause of this disparity was a case of the jitters against good opponents in important games. Haziiq Daniels should just chill out and play the way he’s capable knowing he has very capable talent around him to take up some of the load.
Also, in each of the losses, key drives on the final possessions of the game were stalled by chop blocking penalties on the offensive line. Most of the season, the Falcons have been excellent at avoiding penalties. The fact these were so late in the game would indicate some possibility of pressing a little to hard for a big play.
Playing a perfect game is not possible, but it would be nice if the imperfections didn’t show up at key times.
Make the Running Game Great Again
The last two games have come against the number 6 and number 13 teams in rushing defense. A drop-off in yardage was to be expected, but the Falcons were able to exceed Army’s and San Diego State’s other opponents averages by 75-100 yards. Colorado State also has a good defense against the run, allowing 139 yards per game. The Falcons still lead the nation in rushing with 302 yards a game. In the last four victories against the Rams, the Falcons have averaged over 370 yards per game. In their last game the Rams gave up 385 rushing yards to Wyoming, so the Falcons should be able to reach the 300 mark, but if they don’t, it could make for one of those close games that have been difficult to win. The Falcons are limited somewhat by the loss of Micah Davis as the dangerous pitch option and the decision to reduce Brad Roberts’ workload in order to keep him healthy.
Get Back Better
The Falcons have been hurt in the two losses to Utah State and Army by long passing plays. The defensive backs need to at least limit the damage from long passing plays. TE Trey McBride is the Rams main target, and he mostly stays in the short game, but he has the talent to get down the field, and at 6’4” is a big target. WR Dante Wright is dangerous and WR Ty McCullough is averaging 17 yards per reception.
I would expect to see more of Camby Goff in the spur linebacker position to help in pass coverage.
The Falcons are favored by 2.5 and the over/under is set at 45.
The Falcons have some issue with injuries. NT Pescaia has been out a couple games, and now NT Elijah Brockman is questionable for this game. The word is that Jordan Jackson has been practicing at NG in case Brockman can’t play. That would put either McKenly O’Neal or Jayden Thiergood at end. Niether has played much this year, but both had a good amount of playing time last year. Omar Fattah at backup fullback is questionable, which gives Emmanuel Michel a chance to get some playing time. LT Everett Smalley and backup QB Warren Bryan are questionable. LB TD Blackmon returned last week after being out several weeks, and had a good game against Army.
I predicted that the Falcons would win each of the last two games, but since they lost both, I’m hesitant to pick them again. However, given the recent history between these two teams and the propensity of the Rams to make mistakes like the Falcons have, I’ll take the Falcons 24-20.