The Utah State Aggies will bring the unstoppable force of it’s high powered offense into Falcon Stadium to face the immovable object of the Falcon defense (yes it’s early in the season and I know this is hyperbole). The Aggies are currently the #2 offense in the Mountain West with 493 yards/game and the Falcons are #1 in defense only giving up 177 yards/game.
The Aggies have been the biggest surprise in the conference, led by two transfer players, QB Logan Bonner and LB Justin Rice. They beat Washington State in Pullman, 26-23, and FCS North Dakota at home, 48-24. After going 1-5 last year and losing their final game to the Falcons by a score of 35-7, Coach Anderson scoured the wire for transfer players and he was able to bring in nine transfer players to fill some gaping holes in their roster. The result has been impressive thus far, particularly the win against Washington State on the road.
The game will be televised by FS2, starting at 5:30 PM MT.
Utah State Aggies
The Aggies have a well balanced offense, having averaged 219 yards rushing and 311 yards passing per game. The leading rusher is Calvin Tyler, a transfer from Oregon State. The leading receiver is Deven Thompkins. They operate out of a spread offense with four wideouts and a single running back, and generally use a fairly fast pace.
Two areas of weakness so far for the Aggies are third down conversions and penalties. They have only converted 32% of third downs and they have been penalized an average of 72 yards per game. The Falcons will probably be concentrating on stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback to force the errors and put them into long third down situations. Demonte Meeks and TD Blackmon should get a lot of action.
One of the best kickoff returners in college football, Savon Scarver, returns for the Aggies. Return coverage has been one of the few bright spots for Falcon Special Teams so far, but they will need to account for Scarver on the kickoffs.
Air Force Falcons
We all know what the Falcons will do offensively. Brad Roberts will carry the ball 20-30 times. Hazziq Daniels will keep the ball about 10 times a game, and he’ll pitch out to Micah Davis or Brandon Lewis about 5-10 times a game. It all comes down to the offensive line doing their job and everybody executing. Against Navy the effort was good enough to win, but the excitement of a rivalry battle and a big national stage created some tension and jitters. They’ll need to do better this week, and being at home with a friendly crowd should help. The Aggies in recent years haven’t shown much ability to stop the option, so the Falcons should be able to move the ball. If the Aggies can get their passing game cranked up, that may not be enough. They’ll need to hurt the Aggies with the passing game.
That brings us back to the three passes last week that David Cormier and Kyle Patterson weren’t able to haul in. Everyone close to the Falcon program knows that those two have great hands. They ran good routes that put them in position to catch those balls. The Falcons should, and probably will throw several times to these two guys to get them back in the groove and that should give them the threat they need.
This will be the first opportunity to watch the defense perform against a good passing game. If the secondary can contain the passing attack and get a few big stops or turnovers, it will foretell a bright future for the defense. Help should arrive this week as Trey Taylor, who had practiced with the first team prior to 2020 and then took a turnback will return from injury this week.
The Vegas line on this game opened at -11 for the Falcons, and at this point has drifted down to about -8.5. I did think that -11 was a little optimistic for the Falcons. I think the Falcons are a clear favorite at home and I predict a 28-24 victory for Air Force. So take Utah State +8.5 and take the under.