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Air Force vs Nevada Preview: Looks like the Falcons could be in for another close shootout

The Falcons will look to end their two-game losing streak against the Wolfpack.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force is still looking for its first 2018 win over an FBS opponent this week after the Falcons were not able to complete the comeback over Utah State. Air Force will be playing host to the Nevada Wolf Pack at Falcon Stadium at 4 pm EST/2 pm MST. The game will air on ESPN News.

Nevada’s Season so far

The Wolf Pack is off to a 2-2 start to the season under second-year Head Coach Jay Norvell, and they are scoring a bunch of points while doing it. Unfortunately, they are also giving up just as many.

  • Week 1: Nevada 72, Portland State 19
  • Week 2: Vanderbilt 41, Nevada 10
  • Week 3: Nevada 37, Oregon State 35
  • Week 4: Toledo 63, Nevada 44

Nevada currently ranks 96th in S&P+ or are projected to be on the bowl game bubble this year.

Last time they met

Air Force defeated Nevada on the road last season 45-42 on a game-winning field goal from Luke Strebel. The game was a shootout with Air Force rushing for 550 yards on the ground.

Nevada’s Offense vs Air Force’s Defense

Nevada is scoring 40.75 points per game behind 456.3 yards of offense (289.3 passing, 167 rushing). They are led again by QB Ty Gangi, now a senior, who has thrown for over 1,000 yards through four games and has 9 total TDs (7 passing, 2 rushing). Over half of Gangi’s completions have gone to his top two receivers: Kaleb Fossum (27 rec, 351 yards), and McLane Mannix (19 rec, 358 yards, 4 TDs).

Nevada does look to keep things balanced and can run the ball some too. Freshman RB Toa Taua is a player to keep your eye on. He is gaining 8.1 yards per carry on the year and has also thrown two passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, so the Falcons need to be prepared for trick plays from Nevada.

Nevada is a team that depends heavily on big plays. 12.6% of their plays go for 20 or more yards which is good for 8th in the country,. But, on the other hand, hey are very poor on third down converting 34.2% of the time, which ranks 96th. The formula is simple, keep them from making big plays, and force them into third downs. That is much easier said than done, however.

Look for Nevada to try to air it out with Ty Gangi early and try to get some big plays against the shaky Air Force secondary, before getting the run game involved later to try to even out the time of possession a bit.

The Wolf Pack should be able to score in what is looking to possibly be another shootout, but they will need to focus on holding onto the ball against a team like Air Force. Gangi has already thrown 5 interceptions on the year and Nevada is averaging two turnovers a game. If Air Force can get pressure on the QB, they may be able to steal a few extra possessions in this game.

Nevada’s Defense vs Air Force’s Offense

While Nevada’s offense has been putting up a lot of points minus the Vanderbilt game, the reason they sit at 2-2 with a loss to Toledo is their very poor defense. The Wolf Pack is giving up 454 yards per game and 39.5 points. They are ranked 119/130 teams in defense per S&P+.

Unfortunately, for Air Force this is a team that struggles much more with pass defense than run defense. However, that doesn’t mean that Nevada is particularly good in the run game, they merely mediocre, and as we saw last season the Air Force triple option attack can find success against this defense.

Air Force maybe should look to use Isaiah Sanders more in this game than Arion Worthman though to take advantage of the week Wolf Pack pass defense. If Air Force can get that triple option running smoothly, some big play opportunities will open up in the passing game.

Air Force will need to score a lot in this game to keep pace with Nevada, but also look to try to dominate time of possession to keep the ball away from a big play QB in Ty Gangi.

Winning the Turnover Battle

This game has all the makings of a good “ole-fashioned” shootout, and as with all shootouts, winning the turnover battle and field position battle will be crucial. Air Force had the big force fumble TD on a kickoff last week against Utah State, but still ended up losing the turnover battle 2-1. If the Falcons are to win they can’t let that happen again.

This is a game where I expect both teams to be in the 30s and it will likely come down to who can make the biggest plays in the fourth quarter. I’m going to give Air Force the edge here due to the home-cooking and the tendency of the Wolf Pack offense to turn it over. I think Air Force will be able to have success in the running game and make enough plays in the passing game to get its first conference win of the season. 37-33 Falcons.