Let’s take a look at the Falcon schedule that was recently released by the Mountain West:
Sat., Sept. 3 Northern Iowa
Sat., Sept 10 Colorado
Sat., Sept 17 at Wyoming
Sat., Sept 24 Nevada
Sat., Oct 1 Navy
Sat., Oct 8 at Utah State
Sat., Oct 15 at UNLV
Sat., Oct 22 Boise State
Sat., Oct 29 OPEN
Sat., Nov 5 Army at Arlington, TX
Sat., Nov 12 New Mexico
Sat., Nov 19 Colorado State
Sat., Nov 26 at San Diego State
All game dates and times are subject to adjustment to accommodate Fox Sports and CBS televising schedule.
The first notable factor in the schedule is that the Falcon’s only have 5 games away from Falcon Stadium, and one of those is the neutral site game in Arlington against Army. As usual, the Falcons start the season at home against an FCS opponent, Northern Iowa. That’s followed up with a home game against Colorado. A matchup at home with a Power 5 opponent is rare, but Colorado was willing to schedule a home-and-home with the Falcons, and will be looking to take revenge on the Falcons after losing to the Falcons at home in 2019. The Falcons were outstanding in away games last year, but generally, they are much better at home, so this should be a contributor to a good season.
The open week before Army is a positive, but Army also has an open week. Both teams should be able to get healthier during the break.
Having San Diego State in San Diego to end the season is not an optimum situation. They’ve been a tough opponent for the Falcons, and even if the Falcons manage to beat the Aztecs, it’s possible that the Falcons would have to play the Aztecs again the following week in the conference championship game. Of course, I’m assuming the Falcons can get that far, and I definitely think that is a possibility. I’m expecting 8 to 10 wins at this point, but more wins are possible.
This team is not the kind of FCS team we normally see for Parents Weekend. They compete in the toughest conference in FCS, the Missouri Valley Conference, and made it to the playoffs last year with a 6-5 record. It was the 22nd time the Panthers have made those playoffs. Last year’s team was able to keep up with a good Iowa State team, losing by a score of 16-10. They have a strong rushing defense and allowed only 2.5 yards per rush and 87 yards per game.
They are led by the 17th ranked quarterback from the 2018 class, Theo Day who originally playing for Michigan State.
With the game in Falcon Stadium, and given the problems FCS teams have handling the option offense, I still expect a victory, but by a narrower margin than normal.
Colorado comes to Falcon Stadium for the second game of the home-and-home series. Last year the Buffs struggled in a mediocre PAC-12 under second-year head coach Karl Dorell. The rushing defense allowed almost 5 yards per rush and the offense only managed 257 yards per game. Star running back Jarek Broussard has transferred to Michigan State.
The Falcons should have the advantage in this game, but the Buffs still have a lot of talent and size on the roster, and the victory won’t come easy.
After a disappointing conference record last year, the Pokes have suffered through a lot of turmoil in the off-season. The starting QB, Levi Williams, starting RB Xazavian Valladay, and starting WR Isaiah Neyor have all transferred, and star linebacker Chad Muma is on his way to the NFL. They’ve managed to reload somewhat, and enticed a four-star offensive lineman to come to Laramie, but it’s hard to believe they could be any better than they were last year. The game will be played in Laramie, which is usually a tough place to win, but the Falcons should come away with a win.
Read the write-up for Wyoming above.
It’s worse for the Wolf Pack. Coach Norvell took the head coaching job at Colorado State and took 10 players and 5 recruits with him. New head coach Ken Wilson has a major rebuild ahead. The Falcons should win this game too.
Since Coach Niumatalolo took over the Navy program, the middies’ offense has been dominated by outstanding quarterbacks. That dynamic has disappeared the last two years, and the result has been a 7-15 record. Unless a new recruit shows up, I don’t see a winning record for the Midshipmen, although there was some improvement late last year.
It’s never a good idea to write off another service academy team, it will be a tough battle, but the talent favors the Falcons.
Last year, the Falcons had no answers for WR Deven Thompkins and LB Justin Rice. Both have now moved on to try their luck in the NFL draft. Also graduating are honorable mention All-Mountain West players DL Nick Henninger, DB Shaq Bond, and WR Derek Wright. The Aggies will still have a lot of offensive firepower returning with QB Logan Bonner, RB Calvin Tyler, most of the offensive line, and wide receivers Brandon Bowling and Justin McGriff returning. Coach Anderson has again hit the transfer wire to bring in two Power 5 receivers in Xavier Williams from Alabama and Brian Cobbs from Maryland.
Hopefully, after seeing Anderson’s offense last year, the Falcons can scheme up a better defense this year or maybe outscore the Aggies without Rice, but I see this game as a tossup in Logan.
The Rebels could do nothing to stop the Falcon ground game last year, and the one defender who was the most effective at making tackles, LB Jacoby Windmon transferred to Michigan State. Win.
Mark this down on the calendar. If everything works out, this game could be the deciding game for a spot in the conference championship game. If the Falcons failed to beat Utah State two weeks earlier, this will be a must-win game. This is nothing new, the road to the championship always runs through the Broncos.
The fact is that the Falcons have to play really good football to beat the Broncos. It’s also true that the Broncos still tend to struggle to stop the Falcon’s rushing attack. If the defense is strong enough, the Falcons have a better chance to beat the Broncos than anyone else in the conference.
The Falcon defense certainly has to replace some key players, namely Jordan Jackson, Tre Bugg, Demonte Meeks, and Corvan Taylor, but the depth of experience developed last year gives me a lot of hope.
Additional changes to the Boise coaching staff this offseason also show there still is some stability issues in the program.
Despite all this, Boise still has the advantage for this game. It’s winnable for the Falcons but I’ll lean Broncos for now.
Army loses their best quarterback, Christian Anderson, but bring back several QBs that have a lot of experience. Andre Carter, their third team All-American linebacker returns for his senior season after tallying 8 tackles, 2 TFLs, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble against the Falcons last year.
The game is a tossup, with a slight advantage to Army for demonstrating a hungrier attitude than the Falcons for the last few years.
The Lobos are still trying to find their identity under second-year head coach Danny Gonzales. They started last season emphasizing the passing game with Kentucky transfer QB Terry Wilson, and then abandoned it to feature the running of RB Aaron Dumas. Dumas has now transferred to Washington, and we’ll have to see what the Lobos come up with this year. A win for the Falcons.
After the disorganized mess of the last few years, the Rams stole head coach Jay Norvell from Nevada and he’s brought a slew of his players with him to energize this program including promising QB Clay Millen. It’s a tall order to turn around this team in less than a year, and with the Falcons playing on their home field, I expect a win.
San Diego State
The Aztec lost several key players to graduation this year including Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Cameron Thomas, Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year Matt Arraiza, all-MW RB Greg Bell, all-MW OL William Dunkle and Zach Thomas, and All-MW DB Trenton Thompson.
That’s a lot of talent to lose, but there’s still a lot left on the roster, and the Aztecs have brought in former Virginia Tech QB Braxton Burmeister to energize the passing game.
The Aztecs have had the Falcons number in recent years, and the game will be played in SDSU’s new football stadium, so the odds favor the Aztecs.