The Ultimate Land vs. Air Matchup
Showcase of Top Conference Offenses
WEEK 8: Air Force (4-2) at Hawai’i (4-2)
WHEN: Saturday, October 19 — 9:00 PM MT/8:00 PM PT
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Oahu, Hawai’i (50,000)
TV: CBS Sports Network
SERIES RECORD: Air Force 13 wins – Hawai’i 7 wins — 1 tie
ODDS (via OddsShark): Air Force -3
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force 5.6
Hawai’i and Air Force will highlight the Mountain West Saturday night, in a match up of two Conference contender hopefuls. The teams share identical 4-2 records, each with a Conference defeat.
The Bows however, control their destiny pursuing a West Division title with their lone Conference loss coming against the Mountain Division leading Boise State Broncos.
Losing to the Broncos is another thing these two teams have in common, as this loss accounts for the Falcons lone Conference and Divisional defeat. A lot of teams look to be sharing in that distinct company as this season continues to take form.
That means for Air Force, they would need a little help even if they did run the table to represent the Mountain Division in the Conference Championship. Looking ahead at that is foolish with the gauntlet in front of the Falcons, but it does create interesting context for both of these teams.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. Win the Turnover Battle
Air Force finally put together a turnover free game last week on offense, and chipped in a takeaway (for a touchdown) on defense. The impact of a clean game can’t be overstated, especially for this weeks game versus Hawai’i.
The Bows quarterback, Cole McDonald has already thrown 20 touchdowns, but he has also gift wrapped 9 interception. He will probably have 400 passing yards this game, and that’s ok, so long as the defense can chip in a couple of turnovers.
Air Force does not have the depth in the secondary to match coverage against the run and shoot offense that Hawai’i deploys. But turnovers have been a hallmark of the more successful Troy Calhoun defenses. A feast or famine approach may be their best opportunity.
2. Make the Adjustments Needed
Jorge Reyna of Fresno State looked like former Hawai’i great Colt Brennan, for the first half of last weeks game against the Falcons. Thanks to some adjustments on defense in tandem with a savage game-long running attack, the script got flipped in the second half.
Considering this though, the game could get away from them quickly against a significantly more potent offense if Air Force isn’t able to make adjustments on the fly to mitigate the damage. Again, Hawai’i is going to rack up significant yardage this game, but the Falcons need to supplement this with some Wedding Crashers quoting ‘bad decisions’ by Cole McDonald.
3. Feet don’t Fail Me Now
Lastly, if Air Force is to win this game, I would fully anticipate it being on the heels of another stellar ground performance. Getting everyone in the backfield involved; quarterback, fullback, tailback and slot-back will be critical.
When the Air Force offense is executing at its highest level, it may not matter that Hawai’i racks up 500 yards passing, because the Falcons are capable of scoring on every possession. And that may very well be what it takes to win this game.
Last weeks win provided a lot of encouragement after the Navy debacle a week prior. The offense was clicking on all cylinders, which the defense- particularly the secondary desperately needed to keep them in the game for the first half. In the second half, the offense did not relent and the defense caught up, and the recipe was decisive dismantling of a very respectable Conference Opponent.
The Falcons must have this type of offensive efficiency again if they are to win this matchup. The depth of the Hawai’i receiver corp compounded with the elite talent at the top of that groups depth chart is a really bad recipe for a pass defense that was ravaged by Navy.
I know it may seem like piling on the Air Force secondary, but some of their struggles may be attributed to the fact that the defenses front seven has been so strong, teams have focused on the secondary. I actually believe the corners have improved from last year, Tre Bugg III in particular has played very well.
The place where the secondary has found itself in trouble is when teams spread the ball out, or put the safeties in a lot of coverage. Air Force has arguably the most sound tandem of tackling safeties in the conference. Unfortunately, this team was not built to have the back end or depth of the secondary tested for long stretches. This group will be taxed for a full four quarters.
Air Force Can win this game with turnovers, timely pressure and last weeks offense. I just don’t like the match-up with the offense they are up against. The Falcons always battle until the last whistle, but I wish I had more confidence that whistle would give way to the Hawai’i band singing first.
Just not an ideal match-up for the Falcons. You can’t pick with the heart, even if the pick breaks it.