Air Force vs. Nevada: Keys to a Falcons Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
Aerial Assault Meets Ground and Pound
What should we expect from Air Force vs. Nevada
WEEK 12: United States Air Force Academy (7-3, 4-2 Mountain West) vs. University of Nevada, Reno (7-3, 4-2 Mountain West)
WHEN: Friday, November 19th — 6 PM MT/5 PM PT
WHERE: Mackay Stadium — Reno, NV
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. Nevada’s local broadcast can be found on ESPN Radio 94.5 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 3-2.
LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated Colorado State, while Nevada lost to San Diego State.
ODDS (as of 11/17, via Caesars Sportsbook): Nevada -1.5
SP+ PROJECTION:Nevada by 2.3
FEI PROJECTION: Nevada by 3.8
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, we are in for a treat on Friday. The Nevada Wolf Pack possess one of the nations best passing attacks (4th), while Air Force continues to dominate on the ground, featuring the number one rushing attack in the country. These very contrasting offensive philosophies should make for some very difficult assignments for the opposing defense.
Both teams enter the contest technically alive in the race to win each of their respective divisions within the conference, though neither controls their own fate and would need a lot of help from the teams they are chasing.
Nevada is coming off of a difficult loss to San Diego State, losing 23-21. Air Force knows the feeling, as they suffered defeat at the hands of the Aztecs two weeks prior. In the six collective losses between these two schools, with the exception of the Wolf Pack’s loss early in the season to Kansas State, the remaining five were all single score differences.
Despite being Conference opponents, their placement in separate divisions has resulted in just five contests being played between them. The Falcons have won three of their five matchups, with Nevada winning the most recently played in 2018. If Air Force wants to stay ahead in the series, they will have to contend with a projected first round NFL draft pick, in quarterback Carson Strong, and he will have with him a host of dangerous playmakers waiting in Reno.
𝗪𝗵𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝟰𝟬 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗺?
We may need a race to settle this debate 🤔 pic.twitter.com/m3fPENGG6D
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 16, 2021
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. Play keep away
The beauty of the Air Force offense isn’t that it just drives the opposition crazy with a “death by a thousand paper cuts” kind of approach. But it also creates the ultimate complimentary rhythm allowing their defense to get plenty of rest, while wearing down the opposition physically and mentally.
The Falcons will need this to be the case on Friday if they want to match point output with the Wolf Pack. Their offense won’t just ware down Nevada’s defense, but it can significantly limit offensive possessions and opportunities for points. It can also keep an opposing offense out of rhythm with long drives that keep them on the sideline for long periods of time.
Long scoring drives that result in touchdowns would be a beautiful thing if your an Air Force fan. The offense is very capable of this kind of output, despite a rash of injuries. This will have to be the case if they intend limit Nevada’s damage on the way to scoring enough points to secure a win.
2. under pressure
Whether its Queen and David Bowie or the later rendition by the Used and My Chemical Romance, Under Pressure is is a jam we can all get down with. Similarly, if the Air Force defense wants to help bring home a victory over Nevada, they are going to need to put Carson Strong “under pressure that burns a building down, splits a family in two, puts people on the streets”.
You get the picture, this is not the kind of offense that you can to allow to deliberate the litany of options they have in the passing game. The Falcons will need to make Strong uncomfortable with a dirty pocket, and force him to rush through his reads, ideally luring him into a mistake or two.
Air Force is in the middle of the pack in the Conference (6th) and nationally (56th) when it comes to generating sacks. They average just over two sacks per game, while Nevada is one of the best in the country (5th) at getting to the quarterback. The main different being that the Wolf Pack will drop back significantly more times, and therefore create more opportunities. And while it’s not necessarily critical that Air Force significantly add to their sack totals, though it would help, it’s far more important that they generate pressure consistently.
3. think hawai’i 2019
The Nevada offense puts up the kind of numbers that can put any defense on notice. Back in 2019, Cole McDonald and the Hawai’i offense were similarly dismantling other teams with a relentless offensive attack that was racking up pass yards enroute to scoring more than 500 points on the season. On a points per game basis, that Hawai’i team and present day Nevada are almost identical (34.9 points per game).
Air Force wasn’t just able to wrestle a win on the road against an offensive juggernaut that year, they dominated the game 56-26. What’s more impressive, the racked up nearly 350 rush yards and over 500 total yards of offense behind their then third string quarterback, Mike Schmidt. The defense was also able to chip in two turnovers, one of which being ESPN play of the year interception by Tre Bugg III.
— Tré Bugg III (@TreBugg3) May 24, 2020
The passing attack waiting for Air Force in Reno is probably more dangerous than what they faced in 2019, both in scheme and talent. So having an offense that delivers a big play here and there, and is dominant on the ground is particularly important. Even more important is ending offensive possessions with touchdowns. The Falcons offensive attack is really what broke their opposition in 2019, and it will have to be the catalyst if they are to leave Reno with a victory.
Beating the Wolf Pack on the road is a tall order. They have a deep and talented group of pass catchers, let by Romeo Doubs and Cole Turner. These two alone have accounted for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns to date. Turner in particular is a nightmare matchup at tight end.
And while the offense gets a lot of attention for Nevada, and rightfully so, their defense has been a nice complement. While their red zone defense leaves something to be desired, the Wolf Pack have one of the best turnover margins in the country (4th best).
Mountain West fans alike should take in this Friday night showcase, and just appreciate the talent on display. All the raving about Nevada’s offense would have you believe it’s a runaway, but in reality, Air Force currently has one of the best defenses in the country. The game is going to feature two of the best units at what they do in that Falcon defense and the Nevada offense. It will also have some of the best players in the Mountain West Conference, and country in Carson Strong, Brad Roberts, Romeo Doubs, Vince Sanford, Dom Peterson and the list goes on. There is a lot to appreciate on display in this game if you are a fan of the Conference, or good football in general.
I referenced the game in 2019 against Hawai’i because I see a lot of similarities. Frankly, at that time I thought the offensive philosophy was just a tough draw for Air Force, capable of preventing them from a win, and was completely wrong as evident by the result. I have the very same feelings entering this game, predominantly because of the difficult matchups the Nevada offense is going to pose.
I’m prepared and would be ecstatic to experience some pre-Thanksgiving pie in the humble variety. I’ll also welcome reminders of my flawed conclusion, but until then, I can’t confidently anoint the Falcons with a win in this matchup.
Air Force 27- Nevada 31