Air Force Falcons
Head Coach: Troy Calhoun
2014 record: 10-3 overall, 5-3 Mountain West Mountain
2014 Postseason results: Beat Western Michigan 38-24 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2015 returning starters: 7 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 6000/1
Odds to win 2015 MWC Championship Game: 16/1
Regular season wins: over 6 -150 /under 6 +120
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Last year, the Air Force Falcons were one of four teams in the Mountain West Mountain Division who finished with at least 10 wins. The Falcons went 10-3 in 2014 and 5-3 in the division. Air Force rebounded from a terrible 2-10 season in 2013. The Falcons beat rivals Navy and Army to claim the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy for the 20th time. Air Force also upset Boise State during the regular season. The Falcons would beat Western Michigan 38-24 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to win six of their last seven games.
Eleven starters are back for coach Troy Calhoun, now in his ninth season with the Falcons. Air Force looks to return to a bowl for the seventh time in eight seasons.
Air Force averaged 419 yards per game on offense including 273 rushing and 146 passing yards. Like all triple option teams, Air Force was #7 nationally in rushing but #119 out of 128 in passing. The Falcons averaged 32 points a game. Seven starters are back for Clay Hendrix who has been the coordinator for six years.
Quarterback Kale Pearson has graduated. Pearson threw for 1,590 yards with 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and rushed for 687 yards on 171 yards with 6 touchdowns. Junior Nate Romine will be the starter. He was the back-up behind Pearson last year but started for an injured Pearson as a freshman in 2013. That season, he threw for 603 yards with 5 touchdowns and an interception, and rushed for 205 yards on 75 carries with 3 touchdowns. Last year, he started the regular season finale against Colorado State, and led an upset over the then nationally ranked Rams. Romine threw for 208 yards with an interception and rushed for 94 yards with a touchdown in limited action in 2014.
Junior running back Jacobi Owens missed the last 3 games of the season with a broken foot. Before that he had 204 carries for 1,054 yards and 5 touchdowns. Shayne Davern had 111 carries for 513 yards and 8 touchdowns. Devin Rushing had 71 carries for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns. D.J. Johnson had 81 carries for 330 yards and 8 touchdowns. All will get significant carries again, because Romine will not run the ball nearly as much as Pearson did.
The top three receivers are back for the Falcons. Jalen Robinette had 43 catches for 806 yards and 4 touchdowns. Garrett Brown had 36 catches for 535 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tight end Garrett Griffin had 16 catches for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns. No other receiver had more than 5 catches last year.
Only two starters are back on the offensive line, including left tackle Matt Rochelle and right guard Andrew Ruechel. Still, Hendrix has always been good about getting the most from his offensive line.
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Air Force allowed 395 yards per game on defense, including 259 passing and 136 rushing yards. The Falcons were #28 in rush defense but #105 in pass defense nationally. Air Force allowed 24 points per game last year after allowing 40 points a game in 2013. Four starters are back for coordinator Steve Russ, now in his fourth year in the job.
Alex Hansen is the only returning starter on the line. Samuel Byers and David Harris will also start.
The linebackers lose Jordan Pierce who had 7 sacks last year. The Healy brothers Patrick and Connor will headline the unit. Dexter Walker moves from defensive back to outside linebacker. The linebackers don’t have a lot of depth or size but they never do at the service academies.
Strong safety Weston Steelhammer is the only returning starter in the secondary. Cornerback Gavin McHenry was supposed to be back but is suspended indefinitely for violating Academy rules. the secondary struggled to stop the pass last year and that is something that needs to improve.
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Kicker Drew Oehrle struggled during spring practice, but so did every other candidate to replace Will Conant. Brett Dunn will assume the punting duties. Rushing will return kicks and Brown will return punts.
Air Force opens the season with home games against Morgan State and San Jose State, before a trip to Michigan State. In October the Falcons have road games at Navy, Colorado State and Hawaii, plus home games against Fresno State and Wyoming. In November, Air Force hosts Army and Utah State, and ends the season with road games at Boise State and New Mexico.
I don’t think the Falcons will come close to the 10 win season from last year, but I can see a 7-5 record. I think the Falcons win the CIC trophy again and make a another bowl appearance.
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