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Preview, How to Watch: Air Force faces its toughest test in No. 22 San Diego State

Knocking off the Aztecs could secure the Falcons their first national ranking since 2019.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Confidence has to be at a season high in Colorado Springs right now. The Falcons of Air Force are sitting at 6-1 following a victory over Boise State on the road last week. Now, Coach Calhoun’s squad faces its toughest test so far. The Aztecs are coming to town.

San Diego State is the only remaining unbeaten team in the Mountain West, with a 6-0 record. More importantly, the Aztecs have knocked off the Falcons eight times in a row, so a win on Saturday would get that red and black monkey off the team’s shoulder.

The good news for Air Force is that the team holds an 11-7 edge over the Aztecs in games played at Falcon Stadium. Unfortunately, the last of those wins came back in 2009 with a 26-14 victory. Of course, the two teams haven’t faced off since 2018, and a lot can change in three years. Gone are the likes of SDSU’s Rashaad Penny and Air Force’s Donald Hammond III. Now, it’s time to see who can take their place.

Air Force offense vs San Diego State defense

NCAA Football: Air Force at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons once again have the nation’s top rushing attack, averaging 336.4 yards per game. However, this matchup is shaping up to be an unstoppable force vs an immovable object, as the Aztecs boast the nation’s top rushing defense. San Diego State is holding its opponents to an average of 61.2 yards per game on the ground.

It’s a safe bet to imagine that Calhoun will continue to turn to Brad Roberts as its hot hand on the ground, but this is a week to let Haaziq Daniels test his arm if ever there was one. The Aztecs have been allowing 221 yards per game through the air, which figures nicely to give Micah Davis and Brandon Lewis ample playing time. Both men have eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the season, and they’re averaging 22.1 yards and 26.9 yards per catch.

Of course, the Falcons won’t move too far away from their triple-option roots, as Brad Roberts boasts 818 yards on 178 attempts this season, good for 4.8 yards per carry.

No matter which way Air Force approaches Saturday, it faces a tough test. While the Falcons are averaging 31 points per game, the Aztecs are holding their foes to just 16. Linebacker Patrick McMorris plays a huge factor in that defense, with 40 tackles on the year. On the defensive line, Cameron Thomas boasts 29 stops of his own with 10 tackles for loss.

Air Force defense vs San Diego State offense

NCAA Football: San Diego State at San Jose State Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes down to it, these teams are mirror images of one another. Both are sacrificing yards through the air while locking down yards on the ground, and both are holding opponents to around 16 points while scoring in the range of 32 per game.

That said, Air Force has been the leakier defense on the ground, but it’s put up better numbers through the air. It should be able to keep quarterback Jordon Brookshire in check on Saturday, as the signal-caller boasts just 521 yards passing this season. He has a pair of touchdowns and a single interception to his name, with Daniel Bellinger as his favorite target. Air Force will have to keep an eye on Lucas Johnson as well, as he enters with fewer passing yards on the year, yet he’s tossed four touchdowns to Brookshire’s two.

The main concern for the Falcons will instead be Greg Bell. San Diego State’s lead running back has 561 yards on 113 attempts this year, good for 5.0 per carry. He also has five touchdowns.

Leading the Falcons, we find Alec Mock and Vince Sanford at the top of the tackle sheet this week. Both men have 31 stops, with 17 solo efforts from Mock and another 24 from Sanford. Team captain Demonte Meeks should provide some insurance behind the line, as well as cause chaos in SDSU’s backfield. He leads the team in both sacks and tackles for loss with 3.5 of each.

How to Watch

  • When: Saturday, Oct. 23 — 7:00 p.m. EST
  • Where: Falcon Stadium — Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Watch: Rich Waltz, Aaron Taylor, and Jenny Dell will have the call for CBS Sports Network.
  • Spread: Most books have Air Force favored by about 3 points, with the over-under set at 39.