Boise State vs. Air Force: Falcons Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
Can the Falcons Make it Two in a Row Against the Broncos?
Contact/Follow @Sean or @MWCWire
[mm-video type=playlist id=01g8ggatak2kacq2ps player_id=none image=https://mwwire.com/wp-content/plugins/mm-video/images/playlist-icon.png]
Can the Falcons Stay Perfect at Home?
WEEK 8: Boise State Broncos 4-2 (3-0) vs. Air Force Falcons 5-2 (2-2)
WHEN: Saturday, October 22nd — 5:00 P.M. MT/ 4:00 P.M. PT
WHERE: Falcon Stadium (Colorado Springs, CO)
WEATHER: Plentiful sunshine. High 72F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph.
TV: CBS Sports Network
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: Boise State leads the all-time series 6-4. Last season Air Force defeated the Broncos 24-17
LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated UNLV 42-7, while Boise State was on a bye week.
WEBSITES: BroncoSports.com, the official Boise State athletics website | GoAirForceFalcons.com, the official Air Force athletics website
GAME NOTES (PDF): Boise State | Air Force
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 3.8
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 7.7
PARKER FLEMING ADVANCED STATS PROJECTION: Air Force win probability of 54.57% (31.10- 29.52).
The rollercoaster that has been the Mountain West Conference football season is about to hit what should be one of it’s most thrilling peaks in Week 8; Boise State at Air Force. Despite a 2-2 start, the Broncos are comfortably in the drivers seat of the Mountain Division as the only undefeated team remaining in Conference Play. The Falcons by contrast are battling to keep even a remote possibility to win the division alive.
The Hank Bachmeier era is over in Boise, and they have gone all in on Redshirt Freshman Taylen Green at quarterback. This transition has led to a revelation in the Broncos running game, which is really starting to shine with Green’s running ability paired with one of the best tandem of running backs in the country in George Holani and Ashton Jeanty.
Air Force knows all about elite running back duos, as they have one of their own in Brad Roberts and John Lee Eldridge III. These workhorses behind their standout offensive line are going to really be challenged this week. Despite some prolific performances, there have also been a few games that kept the rushing attack quite honest. The patron example would be their rock fight in Laramie, as the Cowboys defensive front was dominant.
As good as the Pokes are in the front seven, the Broncos look to be just as stout. Overall, the Boise defense really does not look to have any blaring deficiencies, so yards and points could be at a premium. There is going to be a lot of pressure on both offensive and defensive line play for the Falcons this week. They’ll have to pair those groups with some other elements if they want to issue Boise State their first Conference loss of the season.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. 20 is the magic number
The number 20 will be at key indicator for success if Air Force is to win this contest. The most obvious reason is that one of the nations best ball carriers, Brad Roberts wears number 20, and as he goes, so will this offense. In last seasons victory of the Broncos, Roberts ran for 138 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. That was too obvious though, right?
Well then, consider the fact that in three of the four victories the Falcons have secured over Boise, they’ve held the Bronco offense to 20 points or less. Of more recent relevance, Boise state is 0-2 this season when scoring fewer than 20, and 1-2 when the opposition scores 20+.
Air Force on the other hand, has held their opponents to 20 points or fewer all but one this season. Of those six games, they lost only one, and that was to the aforementioned Wyoming Cowboys. Keeping the Broncos scoring in that 20 or below range isn’t just suggested, but likely necessary for victory.
2. CONSUME CLOCK
Owning the time of possession battle is a hallmark of the Air Force offense. Considering they’re opponent has rekindle their love for pounding the rock, the Falcon’s need to keep drives alive to ensure they aren’t on the wrong side of that time of possession metric. Boise hasn’t won this year when they’ve lost the time of possession battle (0-2), and with an offense that doesn’t look to be as dangerous throwing the ball, a hefty dose of the run may be waiting.
Coach Knorr’s defense has posted some really fantastic numbers this year so far. But one of the areas of concern appears to be the run defense. It’s not as if they’ve gotten gashed every game, but they are a middle of the road team statistically, as rush defense goes. Maybe that has helped inflate their pass defense that is ranked 4th nationally? It’s hard to say because there haven’t been overwhelming offenses in either category to oppose them yet. Beware though, the Broncos have recruited very well at the skill positions residually.
One thing is for sure, Boise has started to feature a very multiple rushing attack that could create problems. If they flip the script and are able to gash the Falcons and minimize Air Force possessions, it will be really difficult to find enough opportunities to score the volume of points necessary to win. That diesel powered run game is going to be critical on Saturday, against a very good defense.
3. success in the trenches
Last season the Falcons were able to make hay on the ground against Boise, in particular between the tackles. This is the ‘Brad Zone’. The ‘Brad Zone’ is cultivated, fostered and tended by a collection of interior Diesels; Wesley Ndago, Ayden McCollough, Thor Paglialong, Steven Iles, Ethan Jackman and Mid Season All-American, Isaac Cochran.
This collection of platooning interior lineman have another tall task ahead of them, carving out running crevices in the Boise State interior defensive line. Their defense is surrendering just over 100 yards per game on the ground, and is anchored by a very deep, experienced and talented core of players, led by Scott Matlock, George Tarlas, Herbert Gums, Demitri Washington, Jackson Cravens and Divine Obichere. Matlock was one of my top three players in the pre-season poll, while George Tarlas may find himself in conversations as the Conference’s newcomer of the year.
The Boise State offensive line has been a bit of a different story. While the running game has found their footing in recent weeks, this unit was maligned much of last year and early in the 2022 season. Whether it’s the mobility of Green, or a change in scheme, the group has been playing well. This would be a great time for the Falcons defense to add to that tackle for loss total of 21.
Air Force’s defensive front, in particular the interior is going to need to hold their ground in this matchup. They got pushed around quite a bit by Wyoming and Utah State, and that provided next level blocking on the Falcons highly productive linebackers. If that happens Saturday, it will be very problematic. Especially since it looks like Alec Mock will still be out of the lineup.
I feel very strongly that the keys to victory mentioned above are going to dictate this game. It’s hard to discern whether either of these teams have really beaten a high quality opponent to date. San Diego State and UNLV looked at times this season, as if they would be very respectable wins. I’m not so sure that holds true at this point in the season, and those are possibly each of these squads marque wins to date.
What should cause the most concern for Air Force fans is the struggles they have had against teams who are clogging up the interior of their line. Wyoming didn’t just make it messy, they were penetrating into the backfield with regularity. That crew of game wreckers on Boise’s defense could be very problematic, especially in the absence of speed and ability to get the ball on the edges.
Something that shouldn’t get lost in all this gritty discussion around the players in the trenches, is the treat we should be in for regarding secondary play. Three of the best safeties in the Conference will be playing in this game. J.L. Skinner, Trey Taylor and Camby Goff are all playing at an All-Conference level, so if you appreciate high level play from the safety spot, there might not be a better game to view on Saturday.
Much like the Mountain West has been in general, it’s really hard to tell just how good these two teams are. The way in which Air Force has lost creates serious concerns, relative to the task ahead in Colorado Springs. A jolt in the passing game could be a major difference maker. But there haven’t been reasons to necessarily anticipate that, with what our good friend Matt Kenerly pointed out in this weeks preview podcast, a slightly digressed passing game. I will point out, at just over 23 yards per completion, Air Force leads the country. But the volume of those completions is what creates hesitation on confidence.
Last year I leaned towards Boise in our predictions, and was very pleasantly proven wrong. I’m going to lean that way again, in what should be as close a contest as it gets. Never would I be happier to be wrong again, nor would it come as a surprise. The Falcons have the ingredients to win this matchup, but so does Boise State. This is what makes the Mountain West such an exciting Conference!
Air Force 17, Boise State 21
[lawrence-auto-related count=3 category=645997055]
[protected-iframe id=”f7652191f99ba13728097498e8a79cd8-137729785-123448869″ info=”https://open.spotify.com/embed-podcast/show/48681pqFq0kB9dhrtPPoNd” width=”100%” height=”232″ frameborder=”0″]