#19 Air Force (7-0, 4-0) vs. Colorado State (3-4, 1-2)
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado (Canvas Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 28th at 5 PM (Mountain Time)
Television: CBS Sports Network
Radio: thevarsitynetwork.com // Create an account, scroll through active game feeds to Colorado State broadcast, or follow Colorado State and select their active broadcast
Head-to-Head: This in-state rivalry has been going on since 1957, with 60 meetings total. Air Force leads the all time series with a record of 38-21-1, and are currently riding a six game win streak against the Rams. The last matchup was a 24-12 win for Air Force last year, with Brad Roberts leading the way with 184 rush yards. The last time the Rams hoisted the Ram-Falcon trophy was in 2015, with a 38-23 drubbing that they never trailed in.
Three things to look for:
Snow game is imminent
The chances of snow in Fort Collins on Saturday night sit at 80%-90%. This certainly favors Air Force, as throwing the ball consistently in the snow is a near impossible task. Expect a low scoring affair, with the Rams having a similar run-heavy game plan, at least in the first half. With points being at a premium, special teams will loom large in this game. Any field goal or punt could turn disastrous in an instant. Calhoun and Norvell may be inclined to go for it in spots they otherwise wouldn’t, especially if some special teams miscues have already taken place. More than anything, it means this game will be as strange and exciting as can be.
Rams vs. the triple option
Last season, the Falcons finished their 10-3 campaign with an average of 326.7 yards on the ground per game. In their three losses, they averaged 203.3 yards. While this year’s squad is much different than the previous’, mainly the vast array of quality runners they have at their disposal, it’s still reasonable to say that for the Rams to win they’ll need to limit Air Force’s ground gains to under 200 yards. So if 200 is the approximate magic number for the underdogs to pull off their first ranked win since 2002, how does CSU make that happen?
For starters, any home runs would be absolute killers. The Falcons have had at least one 50+ yard score in their last three games. They can surprise you through the air and wear you down on the ground, but as long as Colorado State keeps everything in front of them, the game can be within reach. Any opportunity to force Air Force into a field goal try has to be seized. Besides the already discussed factors about special teams difficulties with the weather, the Rams ability to force field goals against UNLV was the only reason the offense had enough time to take the lead twice in the fourth quarter. If Mohamed Kamara and the DLine can have a similarly impressive performance against the run this week, an upset could potentially be in the cards.
Can the passing game thrive?
It’s been tough sledding for the Rams passing game over the last three contests. While their average output of 273 passing yards over that span isn’t terrible, when you take into account how much of that total comes from the six minute miracle comeback against Boise State, there is reason to be concerned. The constant snow won’t be doing BFN and Co. any favors. They’ll need to be somewhat effective for the game to be close, as the improved run game is still nowhere near ready to carry the offensive load. Against Air Force’s elite defense, can Colorado State produce enough on the scoreboard to get this done?
Fowler-Nicolosi will need to take care of the ball and find his playmakers, Horton and Holker. The offensive line will need to keep BFN upright and out of the snow, as well as keeping penalties to a minimum. Above all, they have to find the end zone. That’s what ultimately cost them the game in Las Vegas, and it’ll be key to deciding this one, too.
It’ll be a defensive struggle. Both teams exchange punts for the first quarter and a half, before Air Force takes the lead after catching the Rams off with a play action deep ball to Jared Roznos. Colorado State gets a field goal before halftime, and convert on another on their opening drive of the third quarter to cut the lead to one point. The Falcons respond with a long touchdown drive, punctuated by Emmanuel Michel, to make it a 14-6 game with a quarter and a half remaining. More punt trading ensues, before BFN hits Tory Horton on a wide open slant, and even in the snow, he breaks away and races to the end zone to make it 14-12 with seven minutes to go. The two point attempt is unsuccessful, leaving it to the defense to give the offense another chance at taking the lead. Unfortunately, the Falcons lock in and barrel their way down the field. The drive takes all but 15 seconds off of the game clock, and ends with Zac Larrier running untouched to the left pylon, sealing the game at 21-12. The Rams stay in the game the whole way, but the weather ultimately slows down the offense too much for them to pull off the upset.