Air Force Football Three Keys: San Diego State

Three keys Air Force

The Air Force Falcons will not play in the Mountain West Championship Game next week because they lost to Boise State. The Broncos will play in the MWC Championship Game as the Mountain Division champion.

By Matt Zemek

This means the Falcons’ game against San Diego State is their regular-season finale. If the Falcons want to make a strong statement heading into their bowl game, they know what they need to do. They will want to avenge a close and bitter loss last year to the Aztecs, who came into Colorado Springs and won a very tough and rugged game at the Academy.

1 – Classic old-time football

Air Force-Boise State was a slugfest this year, and AFA-San Diego State figures to be the same. The score of the 2022 Air Force-Boise State game: 19-14 Boise State. The score of last year’s Air Force-SDSU game in Colorado Springs: 20-14 San Diego State. Air Force scored just twice against Boise State this year, and it scored only twice versus San Diego State last year. This game figures to be a defense-first battle in which the first team to 20 or 24 points wins.

In games with spread passing attacks and teams with elite athletes – think of Tennessee’s roaring offense with Hendon Hooker (before Hooker got hurt), or USC’s offense with Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison – field position really doesn’t matter that much. One 25-yard pass immediately resets the field position calculus. Scoring matters more than field position because some offenses can strike from anywhere on the field.

For Air Force games in general and for this game versus San Diego State in particular, field position and other elements of old-time football definitely apply. Air Force simply does not have the elite-level offense which reduces the importance of field position. The Falcons don’t possess the top-shelf talent which can wipe away deficits in hidden yards and time of possession. Air Force needs to win all of those kinds of statistics and measurements in this game. If one team has to drive 50 yards to score and the other team has to drive 85, it’s very likely the team needing to drive only 50 will win the game.

2 – Hit the big play

Having said that this game will be a close and low-scoring slugfest, it is important for Air Force to not give up on the idea of hitting big plays. Last year against San Diego State, a few long pass plays were there, waiting to be hit, but the Falcons couldn’t complete the pass. If one team is able to hit a few chunk plays (particularly in the passing game, since both defenses will be expecting runs), that would be transformative and probably decisive in this game. Air Force needs to be willing to pick its spots and take a few shots – not a ton, but certainly some.

3 – Special teams

If this is going to be an old-time football game, that means special teams will be magnified in importance. Winning this battle should matter a lot against SDSU.