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Air Force vs. Boise State football preview: Everything you need to know about the Falcons and Broncos

The Mountain West Conference opener pits two undefeated teams against each other on a Friday night.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

There’s three FBS college football games on Friday evening. While a lot of folks will argue that Utah vs. USC is the contest of the night, Boise State vs. Air Force should be the more entertaining match-up, or — at the very least — the one we can learn the most from.

Boise State is ranked No. 20 in the latest AP Poll and is undefeated, but the Broncos wins are weird. They erased a 12-point deficit on the road to beat a not-so-great Florida State team, squeaked by Marshall at home and then blew out FCS side Portland State. We know a little bit more about Air Force, who steamrolled 2018 FCS playoff team Colgate, and then captured one of the biggest wins of the Troy Calhoun era by beating Colorado on the road in overtime. In that upset, we saw what Air Force is capable of.

What we don’t know is if Air Force is consistent. We’re also unsure of — despite the win over Colorado — the Falcons’ ability to hang with the upper echelon of the Mountain West Conference.

A win over Boise State would answer those questions. A good showing could too. But a bad loss? We might be wondering if Air Force’s bowl-less streak will continue this season.

This is a crucial game for Air Force. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Basics

Kickoff: 7 p.m. MT; 9 p.m. EST
Watch: Dave Fleming, Jim Mora and Paul Carcaterra have the call for ESPN2.
Radio: Jim Arthur and Jesse Kurtz are on the call for the Armed Forces Network (SIRIUS 135, XM 201, Internet 964.)
Where: The blue turf at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho.
Spread: Most books have Boise State favored by 7.5 points. ESPN’s Bill Connelly projects Boise State to win by 11.2 points, according to SP+.
Rankings: Boise State is 20th in the AP and Coaches polls. Air Force did not receive votes in either.

Last time they met

Boise State came in to Colorado Springs last season and took a 48-38 win on Oct. 28, 2018. Brett Rypien carved up the Falcons’ defense for 399 yards and five touchdowns through the air. Isaiah Sanders led the way for Air Force, passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 97 yards and a score.

The Broncos finished 10-3, but lost in the Mountain West Conference title game to Fresno State. And then their bowl game against Boston College was weirdly canceled.

Things to know

  • Air Force is 4-17 against ranked teams under Calhoun. But Air Force’s last win over a ranked team was in 2016, against Boise State. The Falcons last road win against a ranked team was in 2002, over No. 23 Cal.
  • Air Force is 13-7 in Mountain West openers since 1999. Calhoun is 6-6 in conference openers.
  • Boise State has won 19 straight conference openers.
  • A win for Air Force would even its all-time series vs. Boise State to 4-4 and give the Falcons their first 3-0 start since 2016.
  • Boise State junior linebacker Curtis Weaver is tied for the nation’s lead in sacks with six so far this season. It’s worth noting that he had four against FCS Portland State.
  • Broncos’ quarterback Hank Bachmeier has 927 passing yards this season, which ranks 11th in the country.
  • In terms of points scored and points allowed, Air Force has the 29th best offense and 28th best defense in FBS, scoring 39 points per-game and allowing just 15.
  • Boise State leads the nation in plays per-game with an 85.7 mark.
  • Boise State and Wisconsin are the only two teams in the country who have not allowed a point in the second half this season.
  • Boise State has won 115 straight games at home when leading after the third quarter.

Three-step recipe for an Air Force win

Force the Broncos into turnovers: Boise State has won two games by a touchdown or less, and a reason why those games were close is because the Broncos put the ball on the ground. The Broncos fumbled five times against Florida State and then three times (and threw an interception) against Marshall.

Control possession: However, in both of those wins for the Broncos, Florida State and Marshall did an awful job at holding onto the ball once they got it. FSU had possession for 19:57, while Marshall had it for 20:48. Against Colorado, Air Force had the ball for nearly 35 minutes. It’ll need to do that against Boise State to keep its defense fresh and keep Bachmeier off the field.

Let Donald Hammond III cook: Hammond has been pretty solid in the run and passing games through Air Force’s two wins. He completed 7-of-12 passes against Colorado for 155 yards and two scores, while also rushing for 22 yards and a touchdown. Against Colgate, the junior from Hampton, Georgia rushed for three scores. Putting Hammond in positions to make plays and succeed — with passes and in the option — has worked out for the Falcons so far.

They said it

Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, via AP: “It’s not just triple option. They are very creative in their formations, they’re creative in how they attack each team. They try to find a weakness like every offense does and try to attack it and see what they can do. They make adjustments along the way in the game. They know what they do and how to answer the questions the defense provides and then their quarterback is playing really well.”

Threads

Prediction

Air Force does all the right things, plays really well and lets everyone know that they’re a legit MWC contender, but the Falcons give Boise State a chance to win it at the end.

30-27, Broncos.