This being said, CSU can overcome the schemes and toughness of Air Force and here is what to look for:
1) It's All About Safety: The key to stopping the option attack (in this case the triple- option) is discipline. Discipline in assignments, discipline in form-tackling, and most of all, discipline in the secondary. In the spotlight for the Rams will be Strong Safety David Vickers. Vickers will be responsible for not allowing the corners to be exploited by Chance Harridge and the Falcons. Vickers conversion from linebacker to safety will lend itself to neutralizing the option by Vickers' natural ability to play assignment- oriented football and make fundamentally sound tackles. Look for David Vickers to be the anchor of the defense from top to bottom Thursday night.
2) Game-Time Decision: Rhett Nelson will be a game-time decision against Air Force, due to a nagging neck injury. The decision that is made at game-time will be pivotal to the flow of this game. Even with Ben Stratton's solid, debut performance last week against BYU, do Ram Fans really trust Stratton to shore up the corners against the Falcons formidable option attack? What if the Rams neutralize the option, forcing Chance Harridge to go to the air? Is Ben Stratton, a kid who admitted to being worried on the field last week, the guy you want out there? Just something to think about.
3) What About Landon? Landon Jones has had serious issues with his big toe following the win over BYU. He is walking around in a foot cast and may not be able to go on Thursday. You cannot, I repeat, cannot afford to lose this many key defensive backs and expect to beat a riled-up Air Force team. You will not win if injuries in the defensive backfield are an issue. This is not even up for debate.
4) Sonny vs. Fisher: This is the sad part about this contest. What has been overshadowed in the week leading up to this game is the fact that two of the greatest motivators and overall football minds will be squaring off against one another on Thursday. This was not the case against BYU, a game in which Sonny Lubick taught Gary Crowton how to win a football game. The coaching match-up and strategical chess match that will go on will be worth the price of admission on its own.
p.s... both of these coaches are getting up there in age and will not be facing each other for much longer. Take your kid to this game so he can say that he once saw two of the greatest go at it for a conference title.
5) Bradlee Van Pelt or Cecil Sapp? If you're Air Force, who strikes more fear in your defense? You can shut down one, but never both. If I'm Fisher DeBerry I try to limit Cecil Sapp and take my chances with Van Pelt. Pick your poison and hope that they don't both hit 100-yards on the day.
6) What about the weather? With forecasts in the 20's around kickoff, this game will provide for some bone-crushing hits and a handful of turnovers. If the Rams can control the battle of turnovers, as they did against the Cougars, they can punch their own ticket to Memphis.
7) The Adventures of Jeff Babcock: The up and down world of Jeff Babcock could take a scary turn this week. With cold weather and poor footing, things won't get any easier for Mr. 50/50. If this game is decided by 3 points, then it will be a missed Babcock field goal that will do the Rams in.
8) Linebacker U.? Suddenly the CSU Rams are in possession of one of the most talented linebacking units in the nation. Adam Wade's breakout game last week brought Ram fans to their feet and it may do so again Thursday. Wade's speed and pursuit of the play are incredible and may cause Harridge to be ruffled when dropping back or running the speed option. My money, however, is on Drew Wood to come up with this week's batch of huge plays at linebacker. Don't be surprised if Wood gobbles up one of those 5 yard slant patterns at some point in this game.
9) Where's The Motivation? Even though Air Force will be foaming at the mouth after coming off back-to-back losses, the Rams will be able to match their intensity and spirit. CSU knows that the road to Memphis runs through Colorado Springs and I don't think Sonny Lubick and his team particularly want to spend Christmas Day in Las Vegas.
10) And Finally.............Justin Holland: Justin Holland has a chance to see much more playing time on Thursday. Particularly, if Van Pelt has a tough time holding on to the ball in the freezing temperatures. In my view the passing game is there for the taking if Sonny gives Holland enough chances on the field. Look for Holland to produce at least one touchdown through the air.
Ram Rod's Prediction....................CSU 30 Air Force 24