Air Force vs. San Diego State: Three Keys to a Falcons Win
The Falcons head to San Diego to face the Aztecs in Mountain West play. Here’s our preview of how Air Force can win.
Can Air Force pull off another upset?
WEEK 7: Air Force Falcons (2-3, 0-2 Mountain West) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (4-1, 1-0 MWC)
WHEN: Friday, October 12 — 7:00 PM MT/6:00 PM PT
WHERE: SDCCU Stadium; San Diego, California (54,000)
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAM: Get a one-week trial of FuboTV.
RADIO: The Air Force broadcast can be found in and around Colorado Springs on KVOR 740 AM. It can also be found in Denver on 104.3 FM and on satellite radio: Sirius channel 81 and XM channel 81.
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the series 19-16. In the last meeting on September 23, 2017, the Aztecs defeated the Falcons, 28-24, in Colorado Springs.
STAT PROFILES: link
After last week’s surprising win against Navy, the Air Force Falcons hit the road to face the San Diego State Aztecs. The two squads have often played hotly contested games — three of the last four matchups, dating back to to 2013, have been decided by eight points or fewer — but Rocky Long’s team has had the upper hand for quite a while now with seven straight wins against Troy Calhoun.
The Aztecs have shown typical guts despite some significant injuries, beating Boise State last Saturday, but the Falcons have an opportunity to disrupt the conference pecking order themselves, especially if the offense can continue the surge it began last week.
Here’s how Air Force can keep its winning ways going against San Diego State.
Three Keys to an Air Force Win
Keep Chase Jasmin bottled up.
The Aztecs had just 267 yards of total offense in their win over the Broncos last week, and 28% of that came on Jordan Byrd’s game-winning touchdown run. The running game largely failed to get a lot of traction against Boise State, with a Rushing Success Rate (50% of yards needed on first down, 70% on second, 100% on third or fourth) of just 20% after managing 12% the year before.
This makes the matchup of San Diego State’s offensive line and Air Force’s front seven, which just held the Middies to a 21% Rushing Success Rate themselves, a tantalizing one to watch. The Falcons rank 4th in defensive Opportunity Rate (percentage of carries in which the offensive line “does its job” and produces at least five yards of rushing for the runner) and defensive rushing efficiency, meaning that Chase Jasmin, who had just 78 yards himself on 26 carries last week, is probably going to play a significant role again one way or another.
Survive San Diego State’s own run defense.
Perhaps more so than usual, this game will be determined by which offensive line can get the upper hand because the Falcons aren’t the only ones who’ve been dominant against the run: San Diego ranks eighth in defensive Opportunity Rate and defensive rushing explosiveness, and third in defensive rushing efficiency. In other words, they might be the most difficult team in the Group of 5 against whom to run the ball.
Air Force was better at doing that against the Midshipmen, but not overwhelmingly so since they managed only a 34% rushing Success Rate. The big difference is that they were never pushed backwards, though that could easily change since SDSU owns a Stuff Rate (percentage of plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) of 23.7%, which ranks 23rd nationally.
Keep Donald Hammond III upright.
Air Force’s sophomore quarterback has excelled in a couple of surprising ways during his brief stint as the starter, but the biggest difference is in avoiding pressure. His sack rate at the moment is zero, which could be a big deal if he can continue to create big passing plays against a secondary that, while they looked very good last week, ranks just seventh among Mountain West teams in opponents’ passer rating.
If, though. San Diego State’s pass rush is a pretty good one, with a solid sack rate of 6.8%, and they strike from anywhere. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino leads the Aztecs with three sacks, but ten different defenders have contributed to their 12 sacks overall.