Air Force vs. San Diego State: Falcons Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

Air Force vs. San Diego State: Falcons Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

Air Force

Air Force vs. San Diego State: Falcons Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

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Air Force vs. San Diego State: Falcons Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction


Can The Falcons Win Their Season Finale?


Contact/Follow @Sean or @MWCWire

The Aztecs Host Air Force To End The Regular Season

WEEK 13: Air Force Falcons 8-3 (4-3) vs. San Diego State Aztecs 7-4 (5-2)

WHEN: Saturday, November 26th — 7:00 P.M. MT/ 6:00 P.M. PT

WHERE: Snapdragon Stadium (San Diego, CA)

WEATHER: Mostly clear skies. Low 47F. Winds light and variable.

TV: CBS Sports Network Dave Ryan (play-by-play), Ross Tucker (analyst), Brandon Baylor (sidelines)

STREAM: FuboTV — Get a free trial

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 vs. San Diego State, 19-18. The Aztecs defeated the Falcons last year 20-14, for their ninth consecutive win in the series.

LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated Colorado State 24-12. San Diego State beat New Mexico 34-10.

WEBSITES: GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website | GoAirForceFalcons.com, the official Air Force athletics website

GAME NOTES (PDF): San Diego State | Air Force

SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 6

FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 10.6

PARKER FLEMING PROJECTIONS: Air Force Win Probability of 50.14%  (Projected Score 27.33- 27.28)

Where has the season gone? Somehow we have already arrived at the final week of the regular season. Wipe away those tears though, we are in for a treat as the Air Force Falcons head West to San Diego, to take on the Aztecs. These are two of the top teams in the Mountain West, despite being eliminated from Mountain West Championship contention.

San Diego State has hit their stride since Jalen Mayden took over at quarterback, six games prior. In that span the Aztecs are 5-1, and more importantly, the offense has found a much improved passing attack. Prior to Mayden taking the reigns, SDSU was 2-3, averaging just 14.25 points per game against FBS competition. They have nearly doubled that production since, at just over 26 per game.

Like the Aztecs, Air Force enters Saturday’s contest on a three game winning streak. Their formula for victory hasn’t changed much from game to game; feed Brad Roberts the ball, and play really stingy defense. For a majority of their games, this has been a winning recipe. However, they have yet to beat an FBS team with a winning record to date, and their season finale against San Diego State provides one last regular season opportunity.

A tall order when you consider that Air Force hasn’t been able to beat the Aztecs since 2009. On top of that, as much credit as we have given their quarterback play over the second half of the season, it’s the defense that has really doubled down. True to form, San Diego State has been stellar over the last five games, featuring the nations top run defense while forcing an average of two turnovers per game and eight TFL’s. The Falcons are going to need a complete game to have a chance at ending a brutal losing streak to the Aztecs.

Keys to an Air Force Victory

3rd down

One of the things that have really helped feed into the time-of-possession dominance that the Falcons feature is their success on 3rd down. Air Force is 21st offensively and 22nd defensively on third down. That means Troy Calhoun’s bunch is ending the oppositions drives, while sustaining them when they have the ball. This gives them a decided advantage when you consider the way the Falcons play, limiting opponents possessions.

By contrast, 3rd down is one of the few areas that the Aztec defense has been very marginal at, and offensively they have been down-right bad. Both units have improved as the season’s moved along, but their 118th ranked 3rd down offense will be up against it, facing Air Force.

Converting these critical downs provide a lot of obvious benefits. In a game that looks to have a razor thin margin for error for either team, everything is magnified. These drive extenders and enders don’t guarantee points,  but they are certainly enablers. And when they don’t result in points, they are constantly creating an advantage in an area that the Aztecs absolutely dominated the Falcons last year. Field Position.

field position

As just mentioned, San Diego State kept Air Force in a hole all game long last year when it came to field position. This was certainly in part to having an all-time great punter, as well as a defense that was very stingy.

In another game that isn’t likely to see a ton of points scored, the Falcons have got to be better in this area. Carson Bay has played fine in the punting game for Air Force, and he doesn’t need to be Matt Araiza. It’s more about getting a few of those drives extended on offense to be able to flip field position without asking a guy to boom 75 yard punts.

The less yards the Falcons are challenged to march offensively, the better. It’s been documented just how stingy the Aztecs have been on defense, in particular against the run. A short field that could enable points will be at a premium on Saturday.

mental fortitude

Troy Calhoun coached teams typically are discipline and do not take many penalties. While they’ve had some critical ones hit at the most inopportune times this year, they have still been the sixth least penalized team in the country. Compared to Brady Hoke’s squad who are 111th nationally, getting assessed nearly twice the number of penalties per game as Air Force. Those penalties can hinder a team in so many ways, especially in a close contest.

The other part of mental makeup that has to be considered is decision making. Whether that is on the coaching staff or the players,  the Falcons must have full brain engagement on Saturday. Forcing throws into coverage, compromising pitches or blown assignments in the secondary could prove fatal in this game. It’s incumbent on the whole of the Company to do their part.

Prediction

The last time that Air Force beat San Diego State, Troy Calhoun was just in his third season as a head coach (2009). So to say they are overdue would be a drastic understatement. For the Falcons, ending this losing streak would mean beating a team with a winning record, unfortunately this is not something they have done this year.

And like two of the three teams that defeated the Falcons this year, the Aztecs feature a front seven that is going to be very difficult to run the ball against. That same defense has also forced 19 turnovers on the season, which could also be something to watch as this game plays out. Air Force’s fumbling issues have been well documented.

And the other major hurdle comes in the red zone. The Falcons have done a nice job ensuring they walk away with points when entering the red zone. However, San Diego State has done an even better job of stopping teams. Brady Hoke’s team has the third best defense in the country when teams get inside their 20.

While I do believe the Aztecs recent resurgence has a lot to do with their schedule, and who they have played in the back  half of their schedule, it’s not as if Air Force has played a slate full of titans themselves. In fact, it’s just the opposite, and even as double digit favorites, they’ve lost twice. If you like comparing success versus common opponents though, you will be very encouraged when you compare scorecards. These two share the same record (3-1) against Boise State, New Mexico, Nevada and UNLV, but it was Air Force who clearly looked better in every instance.

I wish the common opponents theme felt like a better indicator for success in this game. Unfortunately, because of timing and styles of play that isn’t really the case. This is a team that until the recent nine game win streak, Air Force had dominated the series 19-9. The narrative has certainly changed and San Diego State has won a lot of football games in recent years. So while ending this losing streak to their in Conference foes would be great, and keep hopes of another double digit win campaign alive, it just feels like we may have to settle for ending the Commander-in-Chief’s drought this year.

Prepare for an absolute battle, and enjoy this one. This is truly a coin flip. But even if Air Force isn’t able to get the victory, these are two very good teams who represent the Mountain West Conference well.

I need to see them win versus SDSU to believe it.l can happen again. Falcons lose another one score contest in conference.

Air Force 13 – San Diego State 16

 

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