PRE-GAME ANALYSIS: UTAH STATE AT AIR FORCE
Game Date: Saturday, September 7, 2013
Kickoff Time: 1:30pm MT
Stadium: Falcon Stadium (near Colorado Springs, CO)
Elevation of Stadium: 6,621 feet
Elevation Change for Utah State: increase by 1,911 feet
Travel Distance for Utah State: insignificant (less than 1,000 miles)
Time Change for Utah State: none
Field Surface: artificial (FieldTurf)
Weather: Forecasted daytime high temperature is 87 degrees. Forecasted daytime high humidity is 46%. Isolated thunderstorms may delay or interrupt the game. 30% chance of rain. [UV index is very high – protect yourself!]
Stadium Noise: moderate
 Discipline of Utah State’s defense – assignment and tackling
 Size and strength advantage of Utah State’s offensive line on inside run
 Whether Air Force’s offense has fixed their 2012 fumble problem
Utah State Offense vs Air Force Defense
Dual-Threat Quarterback: In Week 1, Air Force’s defense played well against an elite FCS dual threat quarterback. Air Force’s defense held Colgate QB Gavin McCarney to 143 passing yards (14 C – 27 A – 0 INT) and 35 rushing yards. But, Colgate QB McCarney is not Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton. More importantly, Colgate QB McCarney was operating behind Colgate’s FCS offensive line, while Utah State QB Keeton will be operating behind Utah State’s experienced and powerful offensive line.
In the Trenches: Each of Air Force’s defensive front seven are small for their position relative to FBS standards, especially the defensive linemen, but they are all intelligent, disciplined, conditioned, quick, fast, and agile. Utah State should be very successful in run blocking between the tackles based on their superior size and strength. Utah State will have a challenge in run blocking outside the tackles and in pass blocking, but Utah State’s offensive line is extremely experienced and should know how to block a faster opponent.
Passing Game: Air Force has a reliable passing defense. Most importantly, Air Force’s pass defenders are disciplined and rarely make coverage mistakes. However, Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton is among the best quarterbacks in the nation. QB Keeton is very accurate (Week 1 vs. Utah: 31/40 (78%)) and extremely difficult to sack. QB Keeton should have good individual passing statistics against Air Force, but nothing extraordinary. Overall, Utah State’s passing offense should be effective against Air Force’s passing defense.
Rushing Game: Utah State’s offensive line should be able to clear wide running lanes between the tackles. Accordingly, Utah State should not waste a play trying to gain rushing yards outside the tackles. Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton may have difficulty gaining rushing yards against Air Force’s disciplined and fast defenders.
Air Force Offense vs Utah State Defense
Key Injury: Air Force Starting quarterback Kale Pearson left the game against Colgate (Week 1) late in the second half due to a knee injury. Air Force backup quarterback Jaleel Awini was an effective replacement for the remainder of the game.
In the Trenches: Air Force’s offensive linemen are small, but they are intelligent, disciplined, conditioned, quick, and extremely skilled at using blocking techniques to neutralize bigger and stronger opponents. Coaching is the key to winning the fight in the trenches against Air Force. Utah State’s coaches must teach their players how to counteract Air Force’s blocking techniques. Utah State Defensive Line Coach Frank Maile has 6 years of coaching experience. Coach Maile was promoted from a defensive graduate assistant in 2011. Coach Maile has excelled in his limited experience as the Defensive Line Coach and was a successful defensive lineman at Utah State (2004-2007).
Passing Game: Usually, Air Force’s offense attempts less than 10 passes in a game and sometimes less than 5 or even zero (2012: zero pass attempts against Hawai’i). In a few rare games, Air Force’s offense will attempt up to 20 passes. Air Force’s offense is essentially a one-dimensional option run offense.
Rushing Game: Air Force’s offense is essentially a one-dimensional option run offense. Utah State has a good rushing defense that allowed 148 rushing yards against Utah (Week 1). Utah State’s rushing defense should perform better against the smaller Air Force players if Utah State’s defense obeys the three rules of stopping an option offense: Rule #1: Discipline, Rule #2: Discipline, and Rule #3: Discipline. All option offenses are designed to exploit an opponent’s mental (assignment) and physical (tackling) mistakes. An option offense fails if the opponent does not make mistakes. Last season, Air Force’s offense had significant problems with fumbles (2012: 1.6 fumbles lost pgp).
Air Force often plays well against bigger and stronger opponents. Because this game should be competitive through all four quarters, special teams will be important. Overall, both teams have good special teams.
Although Falcon Stadium has an elevation of 6,621 feet, Utah State will only be experiencing an elevation increase of 1,911 feet. Consequently, stadium elevation should have an insignificant effect on Utah State.
PREDICTED WINNER: Utah State
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