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Preview, How to Watch: Air Force heads to Boise State with bowl eligibility in its sights

The Falcons have roared to a 5-1 start, but the Broncos are impossible to overlook.

NCAA Football: Boise State at Air Force Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons have enjoyed a favorable slate to open their 2021 season, there’s not much of a way around that. They’ve cruised to a 5-1 record with plenty of big wins and heaps of points put on the board.

Now, everything changes. This weekend’s tilt against Boise State kicks off the toughest three-game stretch of Air Force’s season, and the Falcons have to go on the road to get the job done.

Even though this isn’t a Boise State team that’s enjoying its usual early-season success, the Broncos present a formidable foe. Hank Bachmeier is back for what feels like his fifth season, and he’s already closing in on his 2019 passing numbers with half of a season to go.

Overall, Boise State is sitting with a balanced 3-3 record that features blowout wins over UTEP and Utah State — the only common foe between the Falcons and Broncos so far. However, it’s Boise State’s most recent win that should cause the most concern for Air Force fans. The Broncos knocked off then No. 10 BYU on the road, shocking the Cougars 26-17.

All three of Boise State’s losses have come in closer contests, with defeats to UCF and Oklahoma State in weeks one and three. Nevada topped the Broncos in week five on the back of a balanced attack, though both squads put plenty of points on the board.

Now, let’s find out how this Mountain West contest stacks up.

Air Force offense vs. Boise State defense

NCAA Football: Boise State at Air Force Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos rush defense has been leaky to this point in the year, and that’s being generous. They’ve allowed 1,067 yards across their six games as well as 53 rushing first downs and eight touchdowns on the ground.

As a result, Air Force should be able to stick to its guns and ride the yardage monster known as Brad Roberts. After all, Roberts has amassed 540 total rush yards once you factor in just 8 lost yards. He’s averaging over 100 yards per game and comes second only to Haaziq Daniels in touchdowns with 5.

Boise State has no problem allowing yards through the air either, which may benefit Haaziq Daniels coming off his best throwing performance of the year. He completed 7/10 last week and eclipsed 100 yards with a touchdown. There’s no reason to expect an air raid out of the Falcons, but it does suggest room to throw once they establish the run on Saturday night.

Micah Davis figures to benefit most from the passing attack as he closes in on 200 yards for the year while Kyle Patterson is nearing 100 yards for himself.

JL Skinner is the top name to know across the entire Boise State defense, as the young man has rampaged his way to 53 total tackles already. Riley Whimpey and Ezekiel Noa aren’t far behind with 39 and 38 stops, respectively. The Broncos secondary has also racked up 8 picks on the year.

Air Force defense vs Boise State offense

NCAA Football: Boise State at Air Force Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As Boise State has trouble stopping the run, the Falcons aren’t the best at stopping the pass. They’re closing in on allowing 1,000 yards through the air for the season, while Hank Bachmeier already boasts nearly 1,700 for the Broncos. This could spell bad news and plenty of points on Saturday night if Boise State gets rolling.

Bachmeier’s favorite target is easily Khalil Shakir, who already has 584 yards and four touchdowns. He’s flanked by Stefan Cobbs with 260 yards and Octavius Evans with 259.

Boise State is less prolific on the ground, only averaging about 85 yards per game. They’re led by Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who transferred in after three years at Oregon. He has 181 yards and a pair of scores to his name and leads teammate Andrew Van Buren by 50 yards.

Quarterback Hank Bachmeier also has four interceptions to his name, coincidentally the same number that the Falcons have taken away this year. Corvan Taylor has three of Air Force’s interceptions, and he’ll have a ripe chance for number four on Saturday.

Vince Sanford and Demonte Meeks will have plenty of chances to add to their total tackles, too, though the focus will be on how the secondary unit responds.

How to Watch

  • When: Saturday, Oct. 16 — 9:00 p.m. EST
  • Where: Albertson’s Stadium — Boise, Idaho
  • Watch: Cory Provus and Mark Helfrich will have the call for FS1.
  • Spread: Most books have Boise State favored by about 4 points, with the over-under set at 51.