Air Force vs. Colorado State: Keys to a Falcons Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Battle for the Ram-Falcon Trophy
What should we expect from Air Force vs. Colorado State
WEEK 11: United States Air Force Academy (6-3, 3-2 Mountain West) vs. Colorado State University (3-6, 2-3 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, November 13th — 5 PM MT/4 PM PT
WHERE: Canvas Stadium — Fort Collins, CO
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, by following this link.
RADIO: The Air Force broadcast can be found in Colorado Springs on 740 AM (KVOR) or streamed via Air Force All-Access. Colorado State’s local broadcast can be found on KARS 102.9 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 36-21-1, and have won four straight.
LAST WEEK: Air Force lost to Army, Colorado State lost to Wyoming.
ODDS (as of 11/10, via Caesars Sportsbook): Air Force -2.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 3.4
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 6.6
The Ram-𝐅𝐚𝐥𝐜𝐨𝐧 trophy is on the line ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/ahy4nmkeuN
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 11, 2021
As the Mountain Division pecking order seems to be rounding out, this week 11 matchup looks like a must win for the Falcons, if they want to have any chance at playing in the Conference Championship game. With remaining games against UNLV and Nevada, they can ill-afford to lose further ground to the Aggies by stumbling in Fort Collins.
On the other side of the field, Colorado State is fighting for their bowl endearing lives, thanks to a current three game losing streak. Combine that with Air Force’s recent defeats and we have a contest between divisional foes who have collectively lost their last five games, and most recently were handed defeats at the hands of their primary rivals. Misery’s companionship indeed.
On the bright side, someone is going to end their losing trend on Saturday, and take some hardware when they do. The Falcons own the series advantage against the Rams 36-21 (1 tie). That series record has been largely impacted over the last 14 matchups, seeing Air Force win 12 of them. This includes a current four game winning streak against their in-state rivals.
Despite some inconsistent play by CSU, they have plenty of talent who are capable of making an impact in this game, and aiding in a Rams victory. By no means is this a “gimme” for the Falcons. In fact, with arguably the best tight end in the country, Trey McBride and one of the better pass rushers in the Conference in Scott Patchan, there is plenty to concern the visiting team.
If Troy Calhoun and crew want to stay in the hunt for the division, they had better arrive at Canvas stadium prepared. Let’s take a look at some points of emphasis to help extend possession of that Ram-Falcon trophy to 60 months.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. prepare for 12 personnel
We mentioned the NFL bound Trey McBride already. He is a complete tight end that is particularly problematic because of the mismatch he presents in the pass game. But he’s not the only tight end that the Rams will feature. Cam Butler, Gary Williams and Brian Polendey will all factor into the scheme. More than any other team on the schedule, the Air Force defense can expect to face a 12 personnel offense (one running back/two tight ends/two wide receivers) and other multiple heavy sets this week.
The nuance of these personnel groupings will essentially force the defense to prepare for additional blocking support, but also pose a threat in the pass game as well. Someone like Brandon Gooding who has been getting a lot more playing time can be a key factor, bouncing between packages that will probably feature less spur linebacker play for coverage in this game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either, as Gooding has played quite well as the former 3-star prospect has gotten more playing time.
There will have to be a gameplan that provides support to whatever safety or linebacker that draws the unenviable task of trying to corral McBride in coverage.
SCOUTING REPORT: TE, Trey McBride | The NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated: The Leading Authority on the NFL Drafthttps://t.co/EZEkaS4dGC
— NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated (@NFLDraftBible) November 4, 2021
2. stay positive
Even though it hasn’t always translated to wins, the defensive line of the Rams is something to be reckoned with. Fourth nationally in sacks, Manny Jones, Devin Phillips, Toby McBride and especially Scott Patchan are largely responsible for one of the best pass rushes in the country.
Air Force may not throw the ball often, but it may come as a surprise that they have already surrendered 10 sacks on the season. This is significant when you consider they have routinely concluded seasons with half that volume.
This is also important to note because its a reflection of the Rams ability to penetrate behind the line of scrimmage. That in particular can completely derail the Air Force offense. Getting behind the chains early is something that would make for a much steeper hill to climb.
The diesels on the offensive line will have their hands full on Saturday. Even if the gains are modest, its vital that the offense sustains positive yards on a regular basis.
3. DON’T COUNT ON FIELD POSITION
As an Air Force fan, if the value of an elite punter wasn’t something you were sensitive to, after the San Diego State game, you certainly should be thanks to All-World punter, Matt Araiza. The good news is Araiza and his routine ability to churn out 60 yard punts and even flip field position from the heels of his own goal won’t be in play.
However, the Rams do have one of the best punters in the country in Ryan Stonehouse. The CSU punter has been one of the best at his trade for a few years now, but it seems he’s been overshadowed by Araiza’s freakshow 80 yard punts and 50 yard field goals.
That shouldn’t bury the lead here though, a weapon like Stonehouse could put the Air Force offense in similar predicaments as the Aztecs did enroute to victory. The guy is historically good. Thankfully the Rams won’t feature the same caliber defense as San Diego State, but don’t ignore the role that field position can play. Especially if it translates to those fourth and short scenarios being closer to your own endzone, than your opponents.
An interesting note about the Air Force punting game, this weeks depth chart shows the freshman, Carson Bay as the featured punter. Charles Bein has been on punting duties pretty much all season. Whether it’s typical hogwash of an Air Force depth chart, or a reflection of displeasure with the current special teams performance, it’s an area you don’t want to allow to significantly impact the game.
ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴄᴏɴɴᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/Fgp8e1JeKV
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 6, 2021
Colorado State is a hard team to figure out. They have NFL talent in multiple positions, and the play of Todd Centeio at quarterback has quietly improved, but likely overlooked by the lack of resulting wins.
Statistically speaking, the Rams don’t really stand out for anything they do as a team, other than producing sacks. And while the pass rush has been one of the best in the country, it’s a defense that can be had in other ways, and if the defensive line veers from assignment to try and get up-field, it will prove costly.
The other quiet momentum that should be noted is the pass game of Haaziq Daniels. Critical turnovers have been the narrative in losses, but the progress pushing the ball down field can’t be ignored. In particular, Brandon Lewis chipping in almost 24 yards per catch should have the defenses attention.
The ability to have a pass game generate complementary pop to a rushing offense that- oh by the way is the nations best- it can spell for a long day for Colorado State. I wouldn’t expect yards or points to come easy, but the Falcons have an explosive playmaker in Daniels, a bellcow ball carrier in Brad Roberts and a defense that has been flat out nasty.
The Ram-Falcon trophy isn’t going anywhere, it can settle in for the winter at its usual resting spot of Colorado Springs.
Air Force 31- Colorado State 20
A SPECIAL VETERANS DAY THANKS
While getting to write about the amazing football program at the United States Air Force Academy is something I don’t just enjoy, but truly am privileged to do; it will never appropriately articulate the pride, admiration and appreciation I have for these young men, their educators and coaches.
Sometimes we forget the real mission of these Cadets goes well beyond football. The heart and commitment that we see on the field from them every week can at times distract that reality, but at the end of the day they are fulfilling a calling and purpose that demands our respect.
To ALL you veterans out there, from the bottom of the heart of this humble American– Thank you, May God Bless and protect you.