For some help disecting Air Force I employed the help of Jeremy at Mountain West Connection. I asked him a few questions to get us primed and below are his answers.
TDG - 72 points is 72 points regardless of your opponent. When the whole world knew they were going to run the ball, then run the ball then run the ball again, how did Air Force manage to rack up that many points and that many yards on the ground?
MWC - The option offense is just tough to defend, just look at the other option teams this weekend in Navy who gave Ohio State everything they could handle, and then Georgia Tech who averaged 6.7 yards per carry. This offense is very difficult to defend because it is rarely used anymore plus there are so many looks which means defenders must stay with their assignments, and if those assignments are missed then the defense gets burned. Part of the reason that Air Force was able to score so many points was due to their defense that forced Nicholls State to go 1-14 on third down and was able to recover four fumbles.
TDG - Air Force is disciplined in their run game and usually very effective. But the top teams in the Mountain West have managed to slow them enough to beat them. What do the other teams do to stop the Falcons, what does it take to slow down that ground game?
MWC - Assignment football is the reason that BYU, TCU, and Utah are able to slow down the Falcon rushing game. No matter how good a defense is Air Force will still get yards, but the key is to limit the big yard plays. In all five of Air Force games they were held to 110 yards less then in their wins. Scoring early and getting up on Air Force is a key which takes away their running attack and forces them to pass. Air Force is not terrible in passing the ball but if forced to pass to win it will not happen for Air Force. Just limit the big plays and keep to your assignments which is how to slow down the Falcon option.
TDG - What is the Air Force achille's heal on defense?
MWC - Hard to find a weakness with a shutout, but last years team Air Force was just below average in the Mountain West in rushing and passing defense. They were more suspect in the pass game last year as well as giving up big pass plays. The Falcon teams have tended to wear down defensively if they are on the field for long periods off time.
TDG - Based on what you know, Minnesota's OT escape in Syracuse and Air Force's dominating week one win, what do you think happens on Saturday night in Minneapolis?
MWC - We all know Air Force will be able to run the ball, but the big question is if Minnesota has enough disclipine and does not bite on the play fakes with the option. If they can stop the big run plays by Air Force then Minnesota will be in this game. I have a hard time seeing Minnesota winning this game because, Syracuse was one of the worst teams in college football in 2008 and they gook the Gophers to the wire. Minnesota needs WR Eric Decker to have a performance like he did against the 'Cuse with 183 yards to exploit the Falcon secondary with his deep threat presence. Minnesota will be pumped since this is the home opener to their new stadium, but I expect the Falcon running attack to be too much and have Air Force winning this game.
I'm much more nervous about this game than I was a week or two ago. We'll break things down a little bit more in the coming days, but this defense better be ready for a long day of making tackles and being patient in their assignments.