Troy Calhoun, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the country, is back for year 13 at Air Force.
The Falcons went 5-7 last year but were probably better than that. Injuries and a revolving door at QB along with a few unlucky close losses likely deflated the record.
All of the service academies have had great years in recent memory, but Air Force just needs to get back to having 2016 style years rather than 2017 style seasons.
Two quarterbacks with extensive starting experience return in Isaiah Sanders (10.8 YPA passing, 3.9 YPA rushing including sacks) and DJ Hammond (8.7 YPA passing, 4.5 YPA rushing including sacks).
The stat lines aren’t too dissimilar so it may have just been chance, but the Falcons seemed to perform better and more relaxed when Hammond was at the helm.
As an option based team, Air Force doesn’t throw often, but three of the top four are gone none the less. Geraud Sanders (16.9 YPC) and Kade Waguespack (15.2 YPC, three touchdowns) are the top two returners. Sophomores David Cormier or Brandon Lewis may step into bigger roles.
The run game is obviously the more important half of the coin. Kadin Remsberg returns for his junior year after 5.8 YPA in 2018. Taven Birdow (5.1 YPA) is back at fullback and should step into a bigger role with the departure of last year’s top rusher, Cole Fagan.
The line looks solid, and this should be another good Air Force offense: efficient, but not very explosive
The Air Force defense has been solidly between 5.7 and 5.9 YPP over the past five years barring a really bad year in 2017 (6.8). That isn’t great, but given the disadvantages service academies naturally face, it is far from bad. Of course, they rebounded last year, but while a lot of the big names return, the depth appears to be shattered a little bit.
End Jordan Jackson is the most intriguing player on the defense after showing out (4.5 sacks, eight TFL) as a sophomore. Senior LB Kyle Johnson returns in the middle after 70 tackles and seven TFL last year, but the rest of the linebacking corps feels uncertain.
NG Moses Fifita, and OLBs Parker Noren and Lakota Willis are some names to keep an eye on, if they can step up into bigger roles, the defense will be in good shape.
The secondary is the best group on the defense. Zane Lewis (6 PBUs) returns at corner, Grant Theil and Jeremy Fejedelem (104 tackles) are back at safety, and James Jones returns from injury.
Service academies are naturally unpredictable, but with four of the top five tacklers back this should be a good defense once again.
There are a lot of close games projected for the Falcons this year, meaning a wide array of outcomes are possible. After five one-possession losses last year, I’m not sure how confident they should be about that.
Army and Navy are always big games, and the Falcons have Colorado and Boise on the road, but after underachieving last year, I think the Falcons take a big step forward and should make their way back to a bowl for the first time since the ten-win season in 2016.
|Date||Opponent||Opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|20-Sep||at Boise State||32||-12.6|
|27-Sep||San Jose State||116||10.6|
|9-Nov||at New Mexico||117||4.8|
|16-Nov||at Colorado State||103||-2.0|
Average Projected Record: 6.1 wins, 5.9 losses (3.8 wins, 4.2 loses)