Air Force vs. UNLV: Falcons Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
Will Air Force Ruin the Rebels Homecoming?
Can the Falcons Avoid a Hangover in Vegas?
WEEK 7: Air Force Falcons 4-2 (1-2) vs. UNLV Rebels 4-2 (2-1)
WHEN: Saturday, October 15th — 7:30 P.M. MT/ 6:30 P.M. PT
WHERE: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas, NV)
WEATHER: Game Played Indoors: Abundant sunshine. High around 90F. Winds light and variable.
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, 104.3 the Fan in Denver; SIRIUS 388, SXM App 978
Jim Arthur (play-by-play), Jesse Kurtz (analyst)
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 17-6. Last Year Air Force defeated UNLV 48-14.
LAST WEEK: Air Force lost to Utah State 27-34 | UNLV was defeated by San Jose State 40-7
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 4.5
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 16
PARKER FLEMMING PROJECTION: Air Force win probability 77.00% (38.87-28.67)
Episode No. 8: “We’re banged up. We got hit in the face by a good football team and you gotta respond. You can’t let 1 loss beat you twice and that’s the key.”
UNLV (4-2) ready to bounce back against Air Force (4-2) this Saturday at 7:30 PM
— Paloma Villicana FOX5 (@PalomaVillicana) October 10, 2022
One of the last games played on Saturday night should be one of the most intriguing. Air Force will find themselves at one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. this week, as they head to Las Vegas to take on the UNLV Rebels. Prior to last week, these were two teams feeling good about their chances to win the respective divisions they compete in.
A lot can change in a single week.
Both the Falcons and Rebs entered last week with great optimism, but they certainly didn’t conclude their weekend with the same zeal. Air Force got shredded once again by division foes, Utah State for the second year in a row. While UNLV went absolutely broke in San Jose.
There is a major difference in the letdown each team experienced recently, though. Despite getting crushed by their division rivals, UNLV lost their starting quarterback, Doug Brumfield early in the game, and it just got away from them against what is affirmed a serious Mountain West Contender, in the San Jose State Spartans. Air Force on the other hand lost yet another divisional game on the road, despite being double digit favorites over their opponent.
So while both teams still could fight their way back atop the Mountain and West divisions; UNLV requires far less help than their opponents. The Falcons find themselves two games back in he division already, with questions continuing to mount. For Air Force to cling to any chance at a division title, they have to put a complete game together in a conference road contest.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. PROTECT THE FOOTBALL
Nobody wants to hear it, but the importance of ball security cannot be overstated. Only three teams in the country have lost more fumbles than Air Force. UNLV has forced 12 turnovers on the season, while surrendering just four of their own. Three of their four turnovers have come in the last two games, coincidentally.
2. STOP THE RUN
The Falcons ability to run the ball is rarely if ever in question. In recent years, the same could be said for the ability of their defense to stuff the oppositions rushing attack. That has not been the case this year defensively, as they rank 65th nationally. The very definition of mediocre. This has got to improve if they want to get back in the divisional hunt, starting with their matchup with UNLV.
The Rebels feature a bruiser of a running back in Aidan Robbins, yet another Power5 Conference transfer player (Louisville). Robbins has been a key component to a highly effective offense in Las Vegas. With nine touchdowns on the year, the UNLV back ranks fourth nationally. Yes, that’s even ahead of the Falcon’s own Brad Roberts.
According to their depth chart, whatever injury Rebels quarterback Doug Brumfield suffered last week is still ailing him. Cameron Friel appears to be getting the nod to start against Air Force on Saturday. Unless of course, you believe the (or) placed between he and Harrison Bailey, the Tennessee transfer on UNLV’s released depth chart.
Friel didn’t look good in his time against the Spartans last week, nor did he impress against the Falcons in 2021. They can’t allow the Rebels to establish a run game, taking the pressure off of Friel and the pass attack. They have playmakers at receiver that could be dangerous if the offense is able to play complimentary football.
3. REDZONE TOUCHDOWNS
One of the most pleasant surprises this season has been the kicking of Matthew Dapore. He’s playing as well as anyone in the Conference at the position. Hopefully a majority of his work on Saturday comes by way of extra points. In nearly every metric these two mirror each other in red zone play; within 2% of each other offensively and defensively.
They’ve both kept their opposition out of the end zone better than 50% of the time. On offense, UNLV is clicking at 75% of their trips inside the 20 resulting in touchdowns. Compare that to the Falcons, who are cashing in tuddies on 63% of their trips. When you consider how these are the two highest scoring offenses in the Conference (UNLV 1st- Air Force 2nd), the difference between winning and losing could very well come down to who cashes in for six, versus who settles for three.
Air Force needs to make the Cadet wing do the extra push-ups every time they visit the red zone on Saturday.
This duo 💪 pic.twitter.com/WHt3P6xdpR
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 11, 2022
Last season UNLV entered their contest against Air Force with little to play for. The Falcons by contrast were still alive in the Division hunt, and that motivation showed on the scoreboard. This year should be a little bit different from a motivation standpoint. It’s not that the Falcons will be any less motivated, but despite their lopsided defeat last week, the Rebels are very much alive in their division.
Air Force’s hopes of a division title, and thus Mountain West crown are essentially on life support at this point. Losing in Las Vegas would all but pull the plug. UNLV isn’t going to be a pushover like last year, even if Doug Brumfield isn’t able to go (which appears to be the case). But if we are being honest, Brumfield was playing at a very high level, potentially as a Mountain West Player of the Year Candidate, and that production is going to be very difficult to replace.
I realize a far less experienced backup in Cooper Legas, helped Utah State exploit the Falcons defense last week. But the style of offense he operates is different from that which Cameron Friel (or Harrison Bailey) will be conducting. The drop off in quarterback play can’t be ignored.
The Falcons have injury issues of their own that they’ve been dealing with since the injury bug has hit dynamic playmakers Dane Kinamon, Deandre Hughes and Zach Larrier. Since their absence, Air Force has split their last four games. The biggest difference I see in their ability to overcome those losses is they still have the most settling force on their side, the Conference’s leading rusher in Brad Roberts and the nations top running game. UNLV is still looking for their stabilizer in Brumfields stead. Maybe they’ll find it this week, but I’m not betting on it.
Air Force 28, UNLV 24