Colorado’s Best College Football Team Facing ‘Must-Win’ At Boise State

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The Air Force Academy boasts the most prolific rushing offense in all of college football, averaging 341 yards per game. So far this season, in which the Falcons are an impressive 5-1, the team has run the ball 333 times against 34 pass attempts.

Air Force and Army are among the last practitioners of the three-RB flexbone offense, with some inherent irony to the nation’s most important flight school being 10 times more reliant on its ground attack than what it does through the air.

But there’s a very logical explanation for this tendency.

“You can’t recruit the 330-pound kid to Air Force, for obvious reasons,” explained Betfred market analyst Jason Sylva — one of those reasons being, well, you try and fit an offensive lineman of that size into the cockpit of a fighter jet. “Those 6-foot-3, 260-pound kids who can move and come off the line and play smash-mouth football are who you’re going to be able to recruit.

“Generally speaking, you go to these service academies, there’s discipline. It’s a culture that’s been built for decades and decades. Sticking with [the flexbone]  is sticking to what you are. A set structure of how you play and attack and condition is important, and it’s effective.”

Air Force ‘absolutely’ state’s best college football team

Thus far, it’s been effective enough for the Falcons to become “absolutely” the best college football team in the state of Colorado, in Sylva’s opinion, although that status will be put to the test when Air Force visits Mountain West rival Colorado State on Nov. 13.

“By no means is CSU a good football program, but they’re starting to run the rock really well,” said Sylva of the 2-3 Rams, who are coming off a 32-14 win over San Jose State and face New Mexico this weekend. “It will be a competitive game, for sure.”

Air Force is currently given the fifth best chance of winning the Mountain West by both Betfred (+600) and DraftKings (+650). It’s at the bottom of a top tier that includes this Saturday’s opponent, Boise State, which is fresh off an upset win over then-10th-ranked BYU. The Broncos are the conference co-favorite with Nevada at +275 (Betfred) and +280 (DraftKings). Colorado State is the sixth pick atop a tier of likely also-rans, listed at +1800 to win the Mountain West.

The Falcons are 4-point underdogs at both Betfred and DraftKings for their visit to Boise, which DraftKings content specialist Julian Edlow sees as a potential “letdown spot” for the Broncos and “a game that Air Force needs to win.” Sylva concurs, calling this Saturday’s tilt a “must-win” for the Falcons if they want to keep pace with the Mountain West’s top teams — Nevada, San Diego State, and Fresno State among them.

Both Edlow and Sylva feel that the cream of the conference is Nevada, whom the Falcons will visit on Nov. 19. Between this weekend’s game and that one, Air Force will likely be an underdog at home on Oct. 23 against 24th-ranked San Diego State before hosting Army and visiting Fort Collins for the aforementioned intrastate contest.

“The only game that’s a sure win is UNLV, and that’s the last game of the season,” said Sylva, spotlighting the importance of this weekend’s game for the path ahead.

Boise State defense ‘weak in every aspect’

This Saturday’s line has been moving in Air Force’s favor, likely due to Boise State’s porous run defense, which ranks 11th in the 12-team Mountain West.

“I think they’re weak in that aspect — every aspect, really,” said Sylva of the Broncos’ D. “This is a defense that’s definitely toward the back half of college football. I’d say it’s a down defensive year for Boise State. I don’t think it’s really a level-of-competition thing.”

To be sure, 3-3 Boise State has faced a tougher schedule thus far than Air Force, with home losses to Nevada (41-31) and 12th-ranked Oklahoma State (21-20) among the blemishes on its record. Like just about every team, the Broncos feature a far more balanced attack than the handoff-happy Falcons, who also defend the run well. Hence, Boise State’s prospects for victory will likely rest on the capable arm of junior quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who’s averaged 282 passing yards per game and has completed 65% of his throws this year.

On the other side of the ball, Air Force’s attack will key on a dynamic junior QB of its own, Haaziq Daniels, second on the team with 451 rushing yards on the season, trailing only running back Brad Roberts.

Mike Seely has written about horse racing for The Daily Racing Form and America’s Best Racing, and has contributed pieces on a multitude of topics to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among other publications. He can be reached at mseely@bettercollective.com.

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