Air Force came very close to recapturing the CiC trophy last week at West Point, meeting one of the biggest, if not the biggest goal of the season, but they couldn’t make the plays necessary on offense to bring the trophy back to Colorado Springs.
The Falcons now stand at 3-6 overall and will have to win their last three games in a row to salvage something out of this season. The Falcons have lost four games by six points or less, and may feel that if their luck was just a bit better in those games, maybe they could have pulled one out.
If the Falcons don’t make a bowl game it would be the first time under Troy Calhoun that Air Force would miss bowl games in back-to-back seasons. They last missed multiple bowl berths in a row in the last three seasons under Fisher DeBerry between 2004-2006.
Air Force will need all the luck to be on their side for the last three if they want to make a bowl game. The remaining schedule is New Mexico, at Wyoming, and Colorado State. Air Force is favored against New Mexico, and will also be expected to win against a very disappointing Colorado State team. Wyoming will probably see the Falcons as a slight underdog, and because of that, S&P+ only gives Air Force a 22% chance at making a bowl game. Not impossible or even that unlikely, but Air Force will need to play nearly mistake-free football to have a shot. That all starts with this game against the 3-6 (1-4) New Mexico Lobos.
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. (EST) // 2:30 p.m. (MST)
Where: Falcon Stadium at the United State Air Force Academy
Rankings: In Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings, New Mexico is 102nd with the 97th ranked offense and 107th ranked defense. The Lobos are the 2nd best team in special teams in this metric as well. Air Force is 89th (for an explainer on S&P+, click here) with the 94th ranked offense and 79th ranked defense.
Spread: Most books have Air Force favored by 13 points. S&P has this as a projected 8.7 margin in favor of the Falcons and give them a 69% (nice) chance at victory.
Last Time Around
Air Force lost at New Mexico in 2017 to fall to 1-3 by a score of 56-38 with the Falcons giving up 363 yards and over 500 yards total. Senior Richard McQuarley had 179 yards and 5 TDs on only 11 carries.
Big Plays from the Air Force Passing Game. Air Force has been one of the most explosive teams through the air in 2018. They are 11th in S&P, and 10th in explosiveness. The Falcons may want to play the superior passer Isaiah Sanders more than Donald Hammond — though we will likely see both — to take advantage of a very poor New Mexico defensive backfield which ranks as the 125th worst team in terms of giving up explosive plays on defense according to S&P.
They Said It
New Mexico Head Coach Bob Davie, via the Colorado Springs Gazette “We’ve done some things against Air Force because they’re so well-coached, we’ve false-keyed them. They’ve done the same thing to us with their offense. They’re keyed in so quickly and they play so aggressively.”
Air Force Wide Receiver Andrew Smith, via the Colorado Spring Gazette “Isaiah’s a great kid, I love Isaiah. He played amazing in the UNLV game and the Boise game when D.J. was out. So it’s hard to sit here and point a finger at either one of the quarterbacks and blame, because it is definitely more of a team effort. But there are definitely differences when D.J. is in in terms of a swagger type thing. He’s going to put the team on his back. He’s going to try to lead us more, whereas Isaiah’s more of a laid-back role, he’s just going to play his part and do the best for everybody else.”
Expect another high scoring game between the Lobos and the Falcons. I think Air Force’s improved defense over last season is superior to New Mexico’s, and the Falcons should find some successful big plays down the field. At home, I think the Falcons take care of business winning 38-31.
Air Force will be wearing their AC-130 uniforms once again.