Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado (Falcon Stadium)
Date/Time: Friday, September 15th at 5:00 P.M. PST (6:00 P.M. Utah Time)
Television: CBS Sports Network
Streaming: The game can be streamed here. You must have a TV subscription or a streaming subscription
Radio: Aggie Sports Network
Odds: Air Force (-9.5) (Provided by DraftKings Sportsbook)
Head-to-Head: Air Force leads the overall series 6-5 and the last time Air Force beat Utah State was in 2020, a 35-7 win In Logan. Air Force also won in 2019 (31-7) and went on three game winning streak from 2015-2017. When Utah State started Mountain West play in 2013 the Aggies went on the road and won 52-20 in Colorado Springs and also won a home game in 2014, 34-16. Before Mountain West play Air Force and Utah State played only once and it was a 38-13 win for Air Force in Colorado Springs in 1969. Utah State has won the past two matchups against the Falcons, 49-45 in 2021 in Colorado Springs, and 34-27 in Logan in 2022.
Three things to look for:
1. Can Utah State have the same success in scoring?
Last week Utah State exploded for 78 points and had 591 yards of offense. Cooper Legas was 14-16 for 125 yards and threw two touchdowns and Robert Briggs Jr. rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Terrell Vaughn also had 11 receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Utah State was able to improve their third down conversion rate and rushed for a total of 380 yards and passed for 211. Utah State scored two defensive touchdowns and plenty of players gained experience in the blowout win. The issue? The game was against Idaho State. Air Force is better than Idaho State. A lot better. This game takes place in Colorado Springs, which is a very difficult spot to play in. In order to take down Air Force, the Aggies need to score points. That is going to come with consistency in the running game and converting on third down.
2. Stop the run
The way to beat Air Force is to stop the triple option which is easier said then done. The key is to watch the formations before the snap and specifically watch for motions, which comes down to eye control, tackling, and getting off blocks. Air Force rushed for 244 yards against Sam Houston and only passed for 14 yards. The key is to make Air Force pass the ball and if it happens Utah State will be in good position. Utah State’s defense allows 94.5 rushing yards per game which is a good sign for the Aggies, but the triple option threat is a much more difficult task.
3. Get the passing game going
Cooper Legas has passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns over two games. Terrell Vaughn is one of the only receivers to catch a touchdown as well with three and is the only receiver to have over 100 yards receiving. The other receivers need to be able to step up, especially against an Air Force defense that is allowing just 78.5 passing yards per game. The point is for Utah State to be balanced in the passing and running game and so far Utah State has been more balanced in the pass game than run game. The key thing to look at for a Utah State victory is for Terrell Vaughn to play like a big time play maker and have other receivers such as Jalen Royals (88 yards, one touchdown) and Micah Davis (69 yards receiving, one touchdown). Utah State is going to have opportunities to create plays but they need to have balance and take advantage of scoring chances. Utah State’s kickers have been good this season which is going to be important, especially if this game comes down to the final minutes.
This is not the 2022 Utah State football team. This Utah State team is more experienced and seems to be healthier than last year. The receivers need to step up and if this can happen Cooper Legas will be able to be productive enough to keep Utah State in this game. The worry is that Utah State is going to struggle against the run, especially with Air Force rushing for 618 yards and averaging 5.4 yards per carry, 309 rushing yards per game. Air Force has two players that have rushed for over 100 yards in Zac Larrier (164 yards, two touchdowns) and Owen Burk (112 yards, two touchdowns).
The key for Utah State to win this game is going to be to keep their defense off the field. Use the offense to drive the clock down. If Utah State ends up being on the field more often on defense, things could get ugly as Air Force wears down the already thin pressure coming from the edge positions. Utah State needs to get into manageable third downs, which is what I think they do tonight in Colorado Springs. However, Air Force just gets more done with the triple option, which is just enough for the Falcons to edge past the Aggies.
Score prediction: Air Force: 34, Utah State: 27