LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Tim Jefferson Jr. #7 of the Air Force Falcons hands the ball off to Ryan Southworth #40 during a game against the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium November 18 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. Air Force won 35-20. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Bronco Stadium has the honor of hosting the Air Force Academy on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, Versus), so wear your formal camo, everyone. We need to look our best.
What can the Broncos expect when the Falcons roll into town? Lots of offense, little defense, and a well-coached, dangerous team. That should be fun for a change. Join me after the jump for a preview of Saturday's Mountain West showdown, and share your keys to the game in the comments.
Air Force vs. No. 5 Boise State
- When to watch: Saturday, October 22, 1:30 p.m. MT kickoff
- Where to watch: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Ida. (Capacity: 33,500)
- How to watch: Live on Versus with Paul Burmeister, Shaun King, and Anthony Herron
- How to find Versus: CableOne channel 326, DirecTV channel 603, and Dish Network channel 151
- What to wager: Boise State by 31 points, combined score over/under 65 points
- What to wear: Forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, high of 66, 20 percent chance of precipitation
- How to score a ticket: Check the after-market ticket market and get your Benjamin Franklins ready
Keys to the game
We know what the Air Force offense will bring to this game - triple option concepts, mad scientist twists, tons o' yardage, churros (hopefully). But what should be expected from the defense? Air Force ranks No. 100 or worse in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, and pass efficiency defense. That's pretty much everything. So perhaps rather than asking about the Air Force offense we should be asking about the Air Force defense. I'll begin: Can the Falcon D get a stop - any stop, ever - against the Broncos?
To do so, I think the Falcons will need to keep the Boise State offense from finding its rhythm. Same goes for the Bronco defense with the Falcon offense. Both teams in Bronco Stadium on Saturday have powerhouse Os, and all they need is a little power to get warmed up, like a Chevy Volt if a Chevy Volt were a hot rod tank that could fly.
Preventing rhythm can take many forms - three-and-outs, turnovers, penalties, tackles for loss, or just simply tackling. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that tackling is the most important factor in Saturday's game - not just for the team defending the option (Boise State) but also for the team defending the greatest collection of skill players it will face this year (Air Force). Doug Martin scored three long touchdowns against Colorado State by juking guys so bad that Martin wouldn't have been down in touch football. You simply can't afford to miss tackles against either of these teams because they will make you pay. This game needs to be a shootout for the Falcons to have a chance, and I feel that the only way it gets to that point is if Boise State fails to wrap up.
And before I forget: Who wins special teams? And how do they do it? And what will it take to make sure Dan Goodale is not involved? Air Force has a reputation for the bizarre and bold when it comes to fakes and onside kicks, and Boise State is not afraid to press its luck either. Field position is a huge aspect of the special teams battle royale, but I wouldn't be surprised if a fake here or there (or a failed fake here or there) swings momentum at some point.
Miscellaneous keys for Boise State
- Keep Kellen Moore clean. The Falcons run an odd three-man front and bring pressure from different angles. It's nothing the Broncos can't handle, so I say they just go ahead and handle it.
- Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
- Don't get beat deep. Or at least if you do get beat deep, hope Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas is the one throwing the deep passes.
- Keep an eye on that Jonathan Warzeka fellow. He is Air Force's best receiver and best special teamer (preseason Mountain West ST-er of the year and, yes, that's a real thing), and he's a game-changer.
- Third down. Convert on offense, stop on defense, lather, rinse, repeat.
- Hold Tim Jefferson and Asher Clark in check. I think Air Force will need 200+ yards in total offense from these guys to have a chance to win. I don't think they'll get it, but I am wearing my homer glasses as I type this.
Miscellaneous keys for Air Force
- Take what the Broncos give you. The Boise State defense will probably give Air Force something, and it may be the worst party favor you've ever seen but at least it's a party favor. I'm thinking, three-yard fullback dives. And hey, you get four of those in a row and you have a first down. We could be in for a 20-minute, 28-play, 80-yard drive on Saturday.
- Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
- Don't fall behind early. This may be impossible to do against Boise State, but it is of uber-importance to a grind-em-out team like Air Force.
- Make the most of your big play opportunities. Every so often, Boise State has a tendency to leave its back door unlocked and its iPods sitting on the counter for the world to see, and the Falcons need to make sure they take advantage.
- Take the crowd out of the game. That 20-minute, 28-play drive should do the trick.
- Don't panic. Colorado State fell behind by 35 points in the first half and very nearly had a chance to cut it to a two-score game
Other things that may matter
- I hear Stephen Kinsey will be in town on Saturday. Good luck trying to avoid the emotion avalanche, Air Force.
- Air Force has cheerleaders. I did not see that one coming.
- The Falcons are 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1994. This team is better than its 3-3 record shows, and I hope they start proving it starting next week. Really, no rush. Next week will be fine with me.
- The same Versus crew that covered the Boise State - Nevada game will be covering the Boise State - Air Force game. Is Shaun King bad juju for Kellen Moore?
- Saturday is homecoming for the Broncos. I would have picked New Mexico for a homecoming opponent, but to each his own.
What are your keys to the game for the Broncos? Think Air Force can win any other way than a shootout? What worries you about the Falcons? What gives you hope? Share your thoughts in the comments.