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Falcons Take On Nevada On Friday Night

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Expect another close matchup

Air Force travels to Reno on Friday night to take on the Wolf Pack in another elimination game with respect to the Falcon’s division championship hopes. The game will be televised on FS1 starting at 7PM MST.

Nevada employs an Air Raid style offense that Air Force fans might be familiar with if they watched the Falcons play two years ago in the Cheez-it Bowl in Arizona against Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars. The secondary will be heavily tested by probable NFL first round draft choice QB Carson Strong and his two first team All MW receivers WR Romeo Doubs and TE Cole Turner. The Wolf Pack average almost 48 passes per game and 374 yards through the air. If the Falcons aren’t able to come up with an answer, the results could be similar to the Utah State game.

Offsetting Nevada’s prowess through the air is their inability to generate much of a run game and Carson Strong’s weakness as a scrambler. They average only 64 yards per game, and Strong loses almost 15 yards per game from sacks and lack of running ability. In addition, Nevada’s stats point to a similar level of run defense as New Mexico, Colorado State, Utah State, and Boise State, and the Falcons were able to gain over 300 yards rushing against each of those teams.

With those facts established, what are the things the Falcons must do to have a chance to continue their quest for a division championship?

Generate a Pass Rush

With so many receivers flooding the passing lanes, the Falcons need to make sure the receivers don’t have time to complete their routes or break behind the defenders. Statistics-wise, the Falcons are in the middle of the pack as far as sacks, but the pass rush has been able to pressure the passer pretty well. The more mobile QBs like Toss Centeio, Sean Chambers, and Andrew Peasley have been able to evade the pass rush, but Strong hasn’t shown that ability. TD Blackmon has returned from injury to his inside linebacker position, and should provide help to Jordan Jackson, Vince Sanford, Chris Herrera, and Demonte Meeks on the rush. Kenny Ngaima played well at nose guard last week in his first extended playing time due to injuries to Elijah Brockman and Kalawaia Pescaia. Brockman is listed second on the depth chart for this game, and may provide some help as well.

Pound the Line on Offense

Brad Roberts continues to be the MVP of the Falcons. When he gets the ball more than 25 times, the Falcons win for two reasons. First of all he never fumbles (technically he has one fumble in his career on a bad handoff). Secondly, when he gets the ball frequently, it means the Falcons are controlling the ball, running the clock, and demoralizing the defense. It also opens up the surprise factor of the long pass. The Falcons are now number one in FBS at yards per completion with an average of 21.5 yards.

Turnovers

I feel like a broken record on this point. Once all factors are considered, a lot of matchups for the Falcons come down to a coin toss. The coin toss is usually resolved by two or maybe three plays. Those plays generally involve turnovers or penalties or some other self-inflicted wound.

Haaziq Daniels is the key here. When he loses concentration or gets a little nervous, he tends to make some errors that hurt the team. When he’s confident and assertive, he can win games in multiple ways. My estimation of his performance this year is that Daniels seems to be looser when playing away from Colorado Springs, so I expect him to play well.

When it comes to game time though, turnovers are mostly random factors that are hard to pick.

Prediction

The Vegas line for this game has been volatile. Air Force started out as a 2 point favorite, and the line moved to Nevada as a 2 point favorite. Now most sports books have Nevada as a 1 or 1.5 point favorite, but one book has the Falcons as a 1 point favorite. My advice would be to place a bet with the book that has Air Force -1. I think the Falcon secondary will have more problems with Carson Strong than Nevada will have with the Falcon running game. Nevada wins 31-28, which would put the results in the OVER category at 53 points.