Three Game Keys: Utah State

Utah State comes to the Mountain West from the Western Athletic Conference. That's a journey Air Force has made as a program in the past. How can the Falcons travel to the winner's circle, though? Three keys will point the way to success for coach Troy Calhoun's team.

1) If Utah State plays ball control, own third downs. Air Force by nature is a team which can take chunks of time off the clock given the triple-option offense, but against Utah State that could become an even bigger advantage. In a week one loss to Utah, Utah State produced five scoring drives, all of which required at least nine plays. While Utah State has some playmakers, Utah did a good job of not giving up quick scores and, even more importantly, too many touchdowns. Air Force's third-down defense must be up to the task, because the Aggies may struggle to produce points if Air Force can keep them in third-and-long scenarios. Utah State didn't show much home-run playmaking ability in week one, so not giving up touchdowns on long, sustained drives is a key for Air Force.

2) Contain Keeton. Chuckie Keeton represents not only one of the better non-AQ quarterbacks in college football, but a dangerous weapon that many BCS-level schools are probably kicking themselves for missing on. The Aggies lost a lot from last year's offense, but Keeton's return gives them a player to account for on every play. His 314 yards passing with two scores as well as 85 yards on the ground with another score paced the Aggies' offense last week against Utah. Like Colgate's Gavin McCarney a week ago, Air Force must keep Keeton inside the pocket and trust its secondary to cover receivers, because Keeton is as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm.

3) While it's important in every game, a fast start would do the Falcons a world of good in this particular situation against Utah State. The Falcons don't want to be chasing uphill against a team that can be as agonizing to defend as Utah State is. Air Force doesn't get much from its passing game, and against a Utah State team that put up points in bunches last season (it remains to be seen what it can do this year), Air Force can't fall behind too quickly or by too many points. If the Falcons flounder early, things could get real dicey for them. If they spend the second half throwing the ball more than running it, it's hard to imagine them winning.

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