BYU vs. Air Force: The Breakdown

The Cougars are set to take on an Air Force team that is flying high and looking for some revenge come Saturday. Nothing much changes with Air Force from year to year, and this weekend's game doesn't present any new surprises at a glance. What this matchup does present is an Air Force team that is executing as well as ever, which will test the Cougars on both sides of the ball.

BYU rushing offense vs. Air Force

The Falcons give up an average a 136 yards on the ground this season. Most effective running teams have seen success against the Falcon's 3-4 defensive front, which features bigger bodies at defensive line and especially linebacker than it does during most years.

The Falcons are led by sophomore inside linebacker Ken Lamondola, who leads the team in total tackles by quite a large margin. Senior Jake Paulson leads the defensive line at one of the end positions. Paulson is one of the better defensive ends in the conference, and he'll have to be accounted for come Saturday.

Prognosis: The Cougar running attack hasn't really had a big game yet this season. While they've seen some success, Harvey Unga and company have yet to run roughshod over any opposing defense. Air Force can be run on and we'll see if that happens come Saturday.

But, don't count on it. Unga is ailing and fans are all too aware that there's a dearth of quality backup help behind Unga. This is a game where Fui Vakapuna could really help out with running the football, but for the most part fans can expect the Cougars to be adequate on the ground while focusing on beating Air Force through the air.

What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching to see how effective Harvey Unga is this week. Unga has seen very minimal practice time and is banged up. An Unga below 100 percent effectiveness is still better than most running backs, but it will be interesting to note how effective he can be during Saturday's game.

BYU passing offense vs. Air Force

The Falcons have been good against the pass so far this year. Air Force has given up just 167 yards through the air on average so far this season. With a very disciplined defense that plays a lot like BYU's own defense, the Falcons have really been able to cut down on big passing plays from opposing offenses.

Air Force can also rush the quarterback effectively, as Paulson has accounted for 14 sacks on the year. The Falcons will use well-timed blitzes from all positions to disrupt an opposing offense, and this will be something the Cougars will have to guard against.

Prognosis: The Cougar passing game has been humming here of late and don't look for that to change much against Air Force. While the Falcons have defended the pass well so far this season, they've yet to face a passing attack as prolific as the one presented by the Cougars.

What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching to see how effective right tackle David Oswald is at blocking Paulson during passing plays. Oswald has had trouble with quick defensive ends, and Paulson is certainly someone who can cause loads of problems.

I'll also be watching to see how effective Dennis Pitta is during this game. Over the past few years the Cougar tight ends have had monster games against the Falcons, and that very well could hold true this Saturday.

BYU rush defense vs. Air Force

This is obviously the area where Air Force thrives, running the same productive triple-option attack that fans have become very familiar with over the years. Air Force runs even more than usual this year, and has been at least as productive as it has been during most years.

There are no surprises here, as the Falcons will be running the option, running their fullback on dive plays, and doing everything else inherent with their triple-option attack. Freshman Tim Jefferson will be leading the charge at quarterback, and he has rushed for an average of 42 yards per game.

The Falcons spread it around quite a bit between their tailbacks and fullbacks. No offensive player on the Air Force roster averages more than 60 yards per game, but the team has seven different players that average more than 30 yards per game. The team itself averages 275 rushing yards per game.

Prognosis: The Cougars have their work cut out for them this Saturday. The defensive line should be fine thanks to a wealth of experience with defending the option, but the onus will be on the linebackers, who have struggled defending with the run so far this season. It's difficult to assume this game will go much differently, as Air Force should be able to get their yards against the Cougar defensive front.

What I'll be Watching: First and foremost I'll be watching how effectively the outside linebackers contain the Air Force option. This is an area that Coleby Clawson has struggled with, but he'll have to be more effective at not letting plays break contain come Saturday.

I'll also be watching how effective BYU is in defending the fullback dive. When the Falcons get more than three yards per dive attempt, it usually means they'll be able to get a lot of yards. Russell Tialavea and the inside linebackers will have to bottle up the fullback dive and stuff it in order for the Cougars to be effective.

BYU pass defense vs. Air Force

The Falcons don't throw the ball much during most years, but it may be even less this year, as they average only 10 pass attempts per game. When they do throw it they do it off of play action and misdirection, and usually find wide-open receivers since defenses are found keying in on the run.

Prognosis: The Cougars have been better at defending the pass here of late, and with Brandon Howard the odd man out in the planned three-safety alignment, it will be up to Andrew Rich and Brandon Bradley primarily to defend against the long pass and misdirection.

Teams have seen success against the Cougars by utilizing misdirection and gadget passing plays, but the Cougars have really improved upon this facet here of late. Look for Air Force to take their shots, but look for BYU to defend it effectively.

What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching to see how much Air Force tries to exploit the Cougars through the air. This is a game which should see the Falcons throw anything and everything at the Cougars, and they've no doubt taken note of the Colorado State game and other games that have shown how the Cougars can be fooled with misdirection.

Conclusion: Fans can look for a lot of offense come Saturday. Air Force should be able to be effective against BYU's struggling defense, while Air Force shouldn't have much defensively to cause the Cougar offense any problems. Look for this game to go down to the wire with the Cougars eking out a victory at the end, as they're far better suited offensively than the Falcons to make late scores.

Final Score Prediction: BYU 35, Air Force 31


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