BYU better not be thinking about the Holy War this weekend, because Air Force has the talent to beat the Cougars at home...
The Falcons are playing their final regular season game this weekend, and they would like to end their season on a high note.
BYU has traditionally dominated Air Force. The Cougars hold a 22-6 edge in the all-time series against the Falcons. The last time Air Force beat BYU was in 2003 at LaVell Edwards stadium.
Yet, this Air Force team appears to be breaking the mold of a traditional Air Force team. Usually the academy schools tend to fizzle as the season wears on. The training required in addition to football takes a lot out of the Air Force players, and the Falcons struggle to finish the football season strong.
This season the Falcons have won four out of their last five games, with their only loss coming on the road in overtime against Utah.
Air Force has struggled in the past against better football programs. This season the Falcons have competed in every game they have played. Their four losses are each by one touchdown or less. Two of their losses came in overtime. Plus, the Falcons played TCU better than any other conference team this season—losing by three points at home.
Another difference in this year’s Air Force team is their defense. Air Force has one of the better defenses not only in the conference but in the nation. The Falcons are ranked 1st in passing defense, 7th in total defense, 9th in scoring defense and 1st in turnover margin.
Their defense causes and takes advantage of the other team’s mistakes, and converts turnovers into points. Air Force’s defense also benefits from the Falcon triple option attack. The triple option offense allows the defense to rest, and also forces the other team to press in order to get the football back.
Air Force, much like BYU, bases their offensive and defensive schemes on out executing the other team on the field.
If the Cougars play in the Air Force game like they did in the New Mexico or TCU game, then it could be a very disappointing afternoon for BYU. Air Force has something left to prove this season, and they will be pulling out all the stops to get a win over a ranked BYU.
A healthy Harvey Unga will really help BYU to avoid an upset this weekend. BYU needs to give their defense a rest, and cannot afford too many three-and-outs during the game. Air Force’s defensive weakness is against the run; they are ranked 56th giving up 137.45 yards per game. The Cougars should try to win this game on the ground. Out muscling the smaller defensive front of Air Force, and running between the tackles.
This also means BYU cannot panic if they go down early in the game and abandon the running game. Robert Anae continues to be the best defender teams have to stop Harvey Unga. The Cougars have the best back in the Mountain West Conference, but continue to struggle to find ways of giving him the football.
It is important for BYU to score first against Air Force. The Falcons don’t play well from behind. The triple option isn’t designed to mount comebacks, but it is designed to keep games close. When Air Force is forced to go away from the triple option attack that is when teams can really open up a lead against them.
BYU cannot afford any turnovers against Air Force. The Cougars need to clean up the interceptions, fumbles, and mental mistakes (such as dropping first down passes). Giving up easy points to Air Force, due to good field position, is a sure way of setting themselves up for an upset.
Another key is BYU needs to play hungry. Air Force is going to try and punch BYU right in the mouth, and then take away the victory. The Cougars have struggled this season when teams have challenged them. BYU seems to be softer this season, and hasn’t been as quick to be the aggressor in the football games.
If BYU struggles with the challenge of Air Force this weekend, things could be much worse the following weekend against the Utes in the Holy War.
BYU needs to defend their home field, and be the more aggressive team this Saturday. BYU needs to play with some kind of passion.