Preview: Colorado State vs. Air Force
By Douglas Kroll
The two schools are separated by just about 130 miles, and in between lies the metropolitan area of Denver, Colo. Colorado State is situated to the North in Fort Collins, and Air Force to its south in Colorado Springs. One things for sure, there is no love lost between these Front Range rivals.
Air Forces roster doesnt have as many players from the area as CSUs, but the two schools have battled 44 times over the years, with the Falcons leading the series 24-19-1. The Ram-Falcon trophy was introduced to the series in 1980, and since then, the teams have split the 26 contests. The Rams took last years game 41-23, and in doing so, will hold the wood-carved trophy on their sideline. In that win, CSU amassed 555 yards of offense.
This season, each is looking to vault to the top of the Mountain West Conference. Colorado State is off to a good start, as they are 4-1 and 1-0 in the MWC heading into Thursday nights matchup. Meanwhile, Air Force is 2-2, but its two wins have come in conference play, tying them for the conference lead.
The Falcons are coming off a tough loss at home to Navy, losing 24-17. But the season-opening setback at Tennessee was, possibly, a tougher pill to swallow. Down 31-30 in Knoxville, the Falcons attempted a two-point conversion to win the game, instead of forcing overtime, and failed.
Air Force is a tough team to stop, as Tennessee most certainly found out. The option attack accounts for 77 percent of their offense, gaining an average of 266 yards on the ground. The Falcons will also throw a lot of different guys at you on the ground, as ten different players have rushed for positive yardage this season. Chad Hall leads the way with 79 yards per game and four touchdowns. Quarterback Shaun Carney has also reached the end zone four times, while throwing for two more.
No doubt, the Air Force running game is different than anything they will see all season long. And preparing for it on a short week won't be easy.
CSU, offensively, has one of the best quarterbacks in the country when it comes to completion percentage. Junior QB Caleb Hanie has connected on 71.9 percent of his pass attempts this season, second in the nation. Last week against UNLV, Hanie went 23-for-28 with 257 yards and a TD.
Wide receiver Damon Morton has been his favorite target, bringing in 22 receptions for 334 yards. He shares the team lead in TD receptions with two. Miami Springs, Fla. Native Gartrell Johnson III leads the rushing attack with five touchdowns, but has only gained 176 yards on 73 carries (just over two yards per carry). CSU averages a mere 82 yards per game on the ground.
The series has had some close battles since CSU coach Sonny Lubick took over in Fort Collins. In his 13 previous games against Air Force, the Rams have outscored Air Force by an average score of 27.6-24.8.
It will be a battle of two different offenses on Thursday night in Colorado Springs. Air Force and its unique running attack has given teams a tough time all season long, while Colorado State likes to air it out. It could easily be a high scoring affair in a backyard brawl.
Douglas Kroll is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.