As excitement and tension grows among the Falcon fan base and more and more football pundits jump on board the Air Force bandwagon, the Falcons will travel up I-25 on Saturday to meet the Colorado State Rams in Fort Collins to battle for the Ram-Falcon Trophy.
Consider this definition: Trap game - A trap game is a game played against an opponent generally deemed to be easy to defeat. The Falcons come into this game as a 13 point favorite, pretty much in line with many of the other victories they’ve had this season. So by that definition, this is a trap game. Another analogy that meets the definition of trap would involve being caught in between jaws. This game comes between the jaws of the Navy game and the Army game. That’s even more of a trap.
Anybody who follows Falcon football knows that Coach Calhoun is always aware of being trapped. To hear Calhoun tell it, the next Falcon opponent always has big talented players that have tons of experience and will be sending some players to the NFL. The players this year have bought into that mindset wholeheartedly. In past years, fans have had to endure a loss to a team that was an underdog in the midst of an otherwise good season. So far, this year, the team has taken care of business. If the offense is struggling to move the ball, the defense has stepped up to shut down the opponent’s offense. If the defense is trying to find answers to an opponent’s offense, the Falcon offense has put together some long drives that give the defense time to rest and come up with answers. Also, the special teams have been a positive force in good kick coverage, a trick play, timely field goals, and even a crucial blocked kick.
CSU comes into the game as a team on the rise, but still struggling to put together a complete game. A one point win over a struggling Boise State on a last second Hail Mary, an overtime loss to an explosive Colorado team, and a comeback win over Middle Tennessee are the highlights of their season.
The strength of the offense is the passing game, led by freshman QB Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi and featuring the conference’s top receiver, Tory Horton, and top tight end, Dallin Holker. CSU averages a conference best 336 yards per game., but with the high volume of passes and a freshman QB, they also lead the conferences in interceptions with 13.
The running game is well below average at 78.5 yards per game and 2.97 yards per carry. Avery Morrow is the starter, but walk-on Vann Schield has seen increasing duty lately and scampered for a 52 yard gain against UNLV last week, the Rams’ longest of the season by far.
The offensive line is much improved in pass protection this year. They have allowed only 10 sacks in 7 games, which is a lot better than last year. The Falcons had 7 sacks in the game last year.
The Ram defense has not performed very well this year, allowing 466 yards per game, 308 ypg through the air; both rank as last in the conference.
One bright spot on the defense has been the ability to be disruptive. The team has made 53 TFLs and 21 sacks on the year, led by Edge defender Mo Kamara with 13.0 TFLs and 10.5 sacks. Kamara leads FBS in sacks and was named a midseason second team All American by Fox Sports. The Falcons will need to take care of the ball because the Rams have forced eight fumbles on the year.
Prognosis and Prediction
It looks like snow might be in the forecast for Saturday evening in Fort Collins. I won’t speculate on which team the field conditions will favor more, but it could make for more turnovers and a more unpredictable game.
When these teams met last year, the Falcons rushed for 359 yards. Fullbacks Brad Roberts and Emanuel Michel combined for 45 carries and 214 yards. I’m sure the Rams will see a lot of this unless they can stop it, especially if the snow affects ball handling and footing. And if they overreact and put everything into stopping it, they’ll see a receiver pop into the secondary for an easy long gain or a pitch to the outside to John Lee Eldridge or a counter by the conference’s fastest player, Zac Larrier. The Ram’s task is not easy.
For the Falcons, they will have to deal with Tory Horton and Dallin Holker in the secondary. The tight end position has been particularly effective against the Falcons this year for any team with an athletic TE. The Falcons most effective counter measure against this is the excellent pass rush they have been able to produce this year. Can the Ram completely revamped offensive line counter that threat? Watch Payton Zdroik, Bo Richter, PJ Ramsey, and Jayden Thiergood to see how much pressure they can get on the QB. If the Rams can control that rush, it might be a long night for the Falcon defenders.
In the end, if the Falcons play their game and avoid major errors, the advantage clearly lies with Air Force. I expect a Falcon win by a score of 31-17, which means the Falcons should cover the spread and the over/under would be a push.