Air Force vs. Colorado: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds Prediction
Will the heavily favored Falcons dispose of the Buffaloes?
What should we expect from the Buffs vs. Falcons?
WEEK 2: Colorado Buffaloes (0-1) vs. Air Force Falcons (1-0)
WHEN: Saturday, September 10th — 1:30 PM MT/12:30 PM PT
WHERE: Falcon Stadium; Colorado Springs, CO
WEATHER: Mostly Sunny, high of 67 degrees
STREAMING: With FuboTV, you can get a free seven-day trial which includes CBS.
RADIO: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, CO, 104.3 the Fan in Denver, SXM App 972– Jim Arthur (play-by-play), Jesse Kurtz (analyst)
SERIES RECORD: Colorado leads the all-time series, 12-5. In the last meeting on September 14, 2019, the Falcons defeated the Buffaloes, 30-23, in Boulder.
LAST WEEK: Colorado lost to TCU at home, 38-13, while Air Force defeated Northern Iowa at home, 48-17.
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 22.3
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 16.5
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Air Force 93.57% win probability (34.81-13.68)
For the first time since 1974, the Colorado Buffaloes will come to Falcon Stadium on Saturday afternoon. There is a long and unfortunate history that kept these two from playing for an extended period of time, until 2019, when Air Force returned to Boulder to hand Colorado an L in overtime. Nearly 50 years later, the Buffs are returning to Colorado Springs.
When the first Air Force-Colorado football game I covered as a sports columnist for the Rocky Mountain News occurred in 1974, I didn’t suspect the teams wouldn’t play again at Falcon Stadium for 48 years. https://t.co/KZQrbPRFT5
— Gazette Sports (@CSGazetteSports) September 6, 2022
Colorado will be the first team from a Power Five conference to visit Falcon stadium since the Aaron Rodgers-led Cal Bears, back in 2004. Unfortunately for the Buffs, Rodgers isn’t on their sideline. Fresh off of a very disappointing 38-13 week one loss to TCU, they are looking for answers.
The season is early, though, and what better way for Colorado to try and right the ship than with a win over their in-state counterparts? After last week’s stumble, Karl Dorrell’s squad should be anxious to put that performance behind them with a strong outing against Air Force.
On the other side, the Falcons need to build off of last week’s effort. Their opponents this week will be a much stiffer challenge than last week’s FCS suitor.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. No handouts
Against an inferior FCS opponent last week, the Falcons lost two fumbles. A potential third fumble was reversed upon review, as it was determined that Emmanuel Michel’s knee was down. These turnovers occurred when the win was all but secured, but turnovers are the number one way Colorado could steal a victory against Air Force.
Whether it’s on offense or special teams, the Falcons have to protect the ball. Coughing up the ball reduces their number of possessions, and that is contrary to Air Force’s modus operandi.
2. Convert third down
Air Force will notoriously try to convert on fourth down. More often than not, they are successful, too. However, they converted on third down at a healthy 64% clip last week, and it would behoove them greatly to sustain that level of success. With big play production likely to be reduced against Colorado, consistent conversions on third down will be key.
Third down conversions are especially critical to an offense that limits possessions and takes pride in long, time-consuming drives. In all likelihood, there will be fewer big plays and offensive possessions for the Falcons this week. Wearing down the Colorado defense by converting on third down will go along way. Pair that with getting their own defense off the field, and you have a winning combination.
3. no slow starts
Whether on offense, defense, or special teams, Air Force needs to execute early. In the first half of last week’s game against Northern Iowa, the Panthers were actually gashing the Falcon defense before stalling out. Uncharacteristically, Air Force was surrendering large chunks of rush yards early.
The offense produced big plays early and never looked back, as the diesels took over the game. But against a much stronger opponent, a leaky defense early could allow the Buffs to stick around.
In week one, Colorado went into halftime down just one before getting outscored in the second half 31-7. TCU scored just seven points in the first half last week, the Falcons certainly should exceed that on Saturday.
Touchdown no. ✌️ for Dane Kinamon! pic.twitter.com/eHTHAnH2cw
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 3, 2022
Karl Dorrell is in his third season at Boulder, and after peaking as a ranked team in the enigma that was the 2020 COVID-shortened season, this team has struggled. Colorado really needs a win versus Air Force before heading to Minnesota the following week and entering their conference schedule after that. If the Buffs can’t get it together this week, the season could spiral out of control very early.
If you look at the stat lines, both quarterbacks Brendan Lewis and J.T. Shrout played fine, but you would have to have watched the game to see past the stats. A lot of those numbers were accumulated well after the game was decided. You could say the same about the numbers Northern Iowa put up against Air Force’s defense. I bring this up because, typically, it’s a strong passing attack that will give a team their best chance of beating Air Force.
The Falcons’ run defense has been incredibly stingy for years. The pass defense has continued to improve as well, which is an obvious contributor to their back-to-back double-digit win campaigns. For the Buffaloes to have a shot at returning to Boulder with a win, they will need a stellar passing performance from whoever is under center.
Which brings me to the crux of my conclusion: We’ve not referenced Colorado’s run defense. They were carved up for nearly 300 yards last week, while Air Force racked up almost 600 yards on the ground against UNI. The Buffs’ run defense is not going to be able to stop the Falcons attack. Turnovers and an all-time passing performance by Lewis or Shrout are their best chance.
I’d expect Colorado to stick around in the first half before too many missed assignments against an unrelenting rushing attack leads to their demise. The Falcons have too many playmakers to account for behind one of, if not the best offensive line in the country.
Air Force reminds everyone about who the top team in Colorado is.
Air Force 34, Colorado 20