Air Force vs. Utah State: Falcons Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
Can the Falcons Avenge Last Years Loss to the Aggies?
Mountain Division Clash: Air Force Travels to Logan, Utah
WEEK 6: Air Force Falcons 4-1 (1-1) vs. Utah State Aggies 1-4 (0-1)
WHEN: Saturday, October 8th — 5:00 P.M. MT/ 4:00 P.M. PT
WHERE: Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium (Logan, UT)
WEATHER: Intervals of clouds and sunshine. High 76F. Winds light and variable
RADIO: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, 104.3 the Fan in Denver; SIRIUS 388, SXM App 978
Jim Arthur (play-by-play), Jesse Kurtz (analyst)
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 5-4. Last Year the Aggies beat the Falcons 49-45.
LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated Navy 13-10 | Utah State lost to BYU 26-38
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 10.2
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 16
PARKER FLEMMING PROJECTION: Air Force win probability 82.55% (27.10-14.18)
As the Falcons head to Logan to take on the Aggies, it was just over a year ago that a loss to the eventual Conference champs actually cost Air Force the Mountain Division. The 2022 variety of Utah State has not looked the same as the former champs, both by play and not surprisingly, roster composition.
Last season, the Aggies enjoyed a great deal of benefit from the transfer portal. Despite a number of high profile transfers, they’ve not experienced the same success this year. Logan Bonner is out for the year, which has since given the reins of the offense over to Junior quarterback, Cooper Legas. Plus the absence of a Justin Rice on the defense will always be felt.
Don’t cry for the Aggies though, they still have a number of talented players at various positions. And coach Blake Anderson is a proven winner. It may take some of his finest coaching to get Utah State to bowl eligibility, but that ship all but sails with a loss to the Falcons on Saturday. So while the Aggies try to keep their post season hopes alive, Air Force wants to stay in the hunt for the Mountain Division title. Here’s how the Falcons may be able to do just that.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. beware the improv
In his first career start last week against a ranked BYU team, Cooper Legas showed flashes of potential. The passing game was consistent, but there were moments. It’s not as if the Utah State offense was thriving prior to Bonner’s injury, so the deficiencies in the passing game are not all on Legas.
The big difference with Legas in the lineup is his mobility. There were a lot of designed runs and in key downs for the shifty quarterback. The little success that Nevada saw against the Air Force defense really came on the legs of their quarterback, Nate Cox. Similarly, look for the added dimension Legas brings to run game to be display. Where it could be particularly problematic is on those improvisational plays that you don’t necessarily scheme for. Finding success in those off-script plays might make a difference against a very stout Air Force defense.
2. dont get outschemed
One of the trademarks to Blake Anderson’s offenses are their wide (receiver) splits. Spreading the field sideline to sideline exposes matchup advantages on the outside, as well as thinning out the run defense in the middle of the field. Last year, this approach absolutely gutted the Air Force defense. The defense was never able to come up with answers to the Aggies attack in 2021, and this offensive philosophy was a major reason why.
Again, the 2022 Utah State offense has rarely resembled that of the prior year. But every week is a new opportunity. As a team that’s not afraid to throw the ball, the Aggies may have seen some things on tape from Air Force’s loss to Wyoming. There was a lot of soft coverage from the corners that Utah State transfer Andrew Peasley took advantage of regularly.
If they can find some matchups they like, it may allow the run game to be a nice compliment for the Aggies offense. If that ends up happening, we are likely in for a competitive game.
3. impose your will
One of the things that Air Force was able to do for the first time this year was throw the ball with some consistency. Frankly, were it not for the success Haaziq Daniels and the offense had through the air, they likely don’t beat Navy. The Mids held the Falcons run game in check, allowing just 200 yards on the ground at 3.2 yards per carry. For perspective, that’s a full two yards per carry less than their average.
Well, this isn’t the Naval Academies rush defense, and they shouldn’t treat them as such. The Air Force run game should be able to expose what has proven a very leaky run defense of Utah State. To date, the Aggies are surrendering just under 200 yards per game on the ground. For perspective, the last team that Air Force played to yield that kind of yardage on the ground was Colorado. They ran the Buffs right out of Falcon stadium. They should be confident in their ability to make an agonizing four quarters for the Aggies defense.
That defensive side of the ball has proven to be problematic for the Aggies. They have surrendered a minimum of 34 points since their season opener against UCONN. Turnovers on offense certainly haven’t put the defense in the best position to succeed. Despite losing their last two against UNLV and BYU, the offense has started to improve.
Last year, it took 628 yards of total offense and a critical late game turnover forced by Justin Rice to topple Air Force. Unfortunately for the Aggies, Justin Rice won’t be on the field Saturday, nor will 628 yards of offense. While I do think Utah State found some confidence in their showing against BYU last week, they will find a highly motivated Falcons squad opposite them in Logan.
Losing to the Aggies cost Air Force a lot last year. Don’t think that is all forgotten. Short of another string of fumbles and mishaps, a steady dose of the nations most productive rushing attack should blaze the trail to victory.
Payback in Logan.
Air Force 31, Utah State 21