Air Force (6-3, 3-2 Mountain West) at Colorado State (3-6, 2-3)
5 p.m. Saturday, at Canvas Stadium
TV/Radio: CBS-SN/1430 AM, 98.1 FM
Line: AFA -2.5, 45.5 over/under
Weather: 62 degrees, clear
What to know
Season spiral. CSU was in a legitimate hunt for the Mountain West crown just three weeks ago. Not anymore. The Rams have lost three consecutive games with none more demoralizing than a 31-17 defeat last week at lowly Wyoming. CSU got manhandled in a rivalry game critical to its postseason dreams. The Rams now must win all three of their remaining games — Air Force, Hawaii and Nevada — to achieve bowl eligibility. The odds are not in CSU’s favor.
Stop the run. The most surprising aspect of the Border War loss was CSU’s inability to slow down Wyoming’s rushing attack: 57 carries for 385 yards. That is especially worrisome this week against an Air Force offense heavily reliant on its ground game. Junior running back Brad Roberts, a 2019 Ralston Valley graduate, averages more than 100 yards rushing per game. Starting quarterback Haaziq Daniels leads the Falcons with nine rushing touchdowns. It’s a tall order for CSU’s run defense.
Lopsided rivalry. CSU football recruiting classes are consistently ranked higher than Air Force. But that hasn’t translated to victories. The Falcons have beaten the Rams four consecutive times and hold a 12-2 series advantage dating back to 2006. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun has developed a winning program in Colorado Springs with 10 bowl game appearances over 14 years. The Falcons do not waver from their identity as a scrappy, run-first football team that grinds their opponents into submission.
Food drive. CSU and AFA fans attending Saturday’s game are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for donation at tailgating locations surrounding Canvas Stadium. All donations will directly benefit the Food Bank for Larimer County and the CSU Mobile Food Pantry. The game is also featured as Military Appreciation Day with multiple flyovers planned over Canvas Stadium.
CSU QB Todd Centeio vs. AFA defense. The Rams’ starting quarterback threw two interceptions in the Border War loss. Centeio’s decision-making, especially in the red zone, must improve for CSU to stand a chance against Air Force. Give tight end Trey McBride more opportunities to find the end zone.
CSU defensive line vs. AFA offensive line. The Rams’ front seven got outmuscled against Wyoming after being the team’s greatest strength all season. That can’t happen against a no-frills Air Force offense that runs the football on almost every play. CSU loses big if it can’t generate a push up front.
Kyle Fredrickson, sports reporter: Air Force 17, CSU 14
CSU’s defense bounces back in a major way against Air Force. But mistakes on offense doom the Rams in yet another rivalry loss this season.
Sean Keeler, sports columnist: Air Force 28, CSU 20
If linebacker Dequan Jackson can run at even a 90% clip, the Rams can hang with the Zoomies. If not, well, let’s put it this way: Remember how the second half in Laramie played out? Best steel yourself for a sequel, baby.
Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: CSU 21, Air Force 18
A proud Rams defense isn’t going to submit two straight duds in rivalry games. While the Falcons run game will pile up yards, CSU stiffens in the red zone and the offense does just enough to salvage a trophy game victory in this lost season.
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