In a way, the Falcons’ trip to Logan to play the Utah State Aggies marks the true beginning of the season. After two weeks of non-conference play, Air Force is set to take on its first opponent from the Mountain West.
Air Force is getting 10.5 points on the spread and the over/under for the game is at 59.5. So far this season, the Falcons are 2-0 against the spread and both games hit the under. This isn’t surprising because Air Force has made a departure from its sole triple-option offense in exchange for more passing and end zone threats, but the defense has also performed better than expected with players like Garrett Kaupilla and Lakota Wills stepping up to shut down run game and short passing routes across the middle for opposing offenses.
With a week of rest behind them, Air Force will undoubtedly face a tough opponent, but if the past two games are any indication of the performance we can expect from the Falcons, then the Aggies may be in for a shock.
Utah State’s Offense
Although he threw for 319 yards against the high powered Michigan State defense last week, I’m really not overly concerned by the Aggies quarterback, Jordan Love. Despite those yards, he completed 29 of his 44 pass attempts and threw two interceptions. Standing at 6’4” and 225 pounds, he’s much bigger than the Florida Atlantic University quarterback, Chris Robison. While Robison saw much of his success by slipping out of the pocket and throwing with deadly accuracy, Love may try to use his size to muscle the ball for extra yardage up the middle after a busted play. The Falcons will need to hit him hard early to wear him down and slow his passing.
In addition to Love, the Falcons need to contain the running back, Gerold Bright. Much like FAU’s Devin Singletary, Bright is a hard-nosed runner with good size, but is objectively not as talented. That is not to say that he isn’t a threat. He averaged 9.4 yards per carry last week against New Mexico State, but the Falcons are well equipped to stop him at the line. If the Falcons do successfully shut down the run game and the Aggies lean more on passing, the secondary will have a long night ahead of them to stop the Aggies’ Ron’Quavion Tarver, whom Jordan Love favors as a passing target.
Although Utah State has a skilled offense that can spread the ball out efficiently, it’s nothing that the Falcons didn’t see against Florida Atlantic. The obvious improvements that were needed against Florida Atlantic still ring true, they can’t allow the Aggies to have success on a hurry up offense package and they need to contain the long ball.
Utah State’s Defense
The Falcons have a new found passing talent in Isaiah Sanders. Hopefully he has spent the last two weeks getting more comfortable passing to Marcus Bennett, Ronald Cleveland, and Geraud Sanders. However, it’s safe to say that Lane Kiffin was caught on his heels a bit when Air Force took to the sky to pass against his Owls defense. What we saw was success in the passing game, but the Aggies have now seen it, too. There is an obvious danger that the defense will have scouted ways to collapse the Air Force pocket and shut down receivers. If that is the case and Air Force needs to revert back to mostly running, it wouldn’t be surprising to see senior Aarion Worthman back at the helm for the Falcons as an in-game adjustment.
Cole Fagan has been another bright spot for the Falcons at the running back position. I suspect he will have a big game against Utah State, as his brand of powerful running tends to fair well against Mountain West teams. Having time to rest and work to improve over the last two weeks should be beneficial to him and the second back in the rotation, Nolan Erikson.
The Importance of Special Teams
The Falcons experienced the importance of special teams first hand in the game against FAU after blocking a punt late in the game that was returned for a touchdown. The Falcons need to capitalize on any opportunities to disrupt the Aggies’ special teams play to create more possession opportunities, especially if the Aggies create any sort of big scoring lead.
Playing in Logan, Utah
The climate in Logan isn’t terribly different from playing at Falcon Stadium. The temperature for the late kickoff is supposed to be around 70 degrees, then dropping to about 60 degrees by 10 PM local time. Fortunately, there is no rain anticipated for the game, which will be a nice departure from the first two Air Force games, both of which saw weather delays due to lightning. Logan also sits at 4,500 feet above sea level, higher than most teams are used to, but nearly 3,000 feet lower than Falcon Stadium’s altitude.
The Falcons have good reason to feel confident after nearly taking down a strong FAU team two weeks ago in Boca Raton. Then again, so do the Aggies, after holding the number 24 ranked Michigan State to only a 7 point loss of 31-38. The Falcons had a week of rest and regrouping to prepare, but the 8:15 mountain time should be a great nightcap on the Saturday slate of college football.