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BYU vs. Air Force: The Falcon Perspective

My take on this week's match up is that the BYU defense needs to be ready for a bag of tricks.  Air Force ran the ball with 18 different backs last week, which leads me to believe that they knew it was a sure win and didn't want to show their hand, especially since this is only their 2nd game since playing BYU last, which means no new film to watch.  Much like Tulsa did in '07, I expect Air Force to have a back plan that involves a lot of "never before seen" plays to surprise the BYU defense with.  Enough on my take, let's hear about the Falcons.

Jeremy Mauss is a sports writer who covers all Mountain West Conference action for SB Nation, including Air Force Falcon football.  In order to get a feel for how the Falcon Faithful view this weekend's game, I have asked Jeremy to answer 5 questions.

VTF:  In the last 3 years Air Force has gone 9-4, 8-5 and 8-5.  I see Air Force going 9-3 in the regular season this year with losses to Oklahoma, TCU and BYU.  What are Falcon fans expecting from Air Force this year? Especially in terms of how they will fair against the "Big 3" in the Mountain West.

JM: I thought at the beginning of the year they would have no problem moving into the top three, but with their slow start against Northwestern State and now with the injury to DB Reggie Rembert that may not be the case.  Their secondary is possibly one of the best if not the best in the Mountain West as well as their defense as a whole.  Last year they were a top 20 defense nationally and shutdown Houston in their bowl game.  So, besides being able to control the time of possession to keep opposing offenses off the field they now have a defense to match.  They always play Utah tough regardless of how good Utah is and expect that to be the same this year too.  TCU will want some revenge for a close win last year so I expect TCU to take care of business against the Falcons.  Originally I thought BYU would be the game that Air Force could win because of what BYU lost last year, but with the opening performance not being as strong as expected I have my doubts.  With DB Reggie Rembert still questionable for the game it will make this much more difficult for the Falcons.  BYU has had Air Force's number over the past decade, but this year looks to be Air Force's best chance at ending their losing streak to BYU.  My main reason for that is because BYU lost so much talent on offense and Air Force has a very good defense to go along with their always good offense.  Expect Saturday's game to be close regardless of who wins.

VTF: The most success Air Force has had on offense against BYU recently is when they get away from the traditional Veer Option.  Do you see the Falcons trying to stay true to form against the Cougars or will they go with more of a conventional offense with maybe some trick plays mixed in?  Not having to prepare much for a week 1 opponent what is your prediction on the number of trick plays the Falcons will throw in?

JM: Air Force will do what they do on offense which is their run option and with a heavy dose of full back dives put the defense to sleep.  However, their QB Tim Jefferson is not the traditional running quarterback who leads the option, but he actually is a pretty good passer and expect the Falcons to throw more to keep their offense balanced.  Trick plays are hard to tell by Air Force since they run end arounds a lot and I guess if you count reverses they may have two in Saturday's game.

VTF: Which Air Force players do the Cougars need to game plan for on offense and defense?

JM: Offensively it is QB Tim Jefferson and really any running back, but specifically Jared Tew and Connor Dietz.  The latter two are the main runners on offense and will get the bulk of the carries, but any back who touches the ball is a threat.  Last week 19 different players ran the ball, so expect anyone to make a play.

Defensively it is the secondary that BYU needs to be worried about and the two key players are DB Anthony Wright Jr and Reggie Rembert, but that depends if Rembert plays.  The two are ball hawks and last year combined for ten picks.

VTF: How does Air Force avoid being worn down up front by an over-sized BYU offensive line?

JM: Well, the speed of Air Force's defense will help counter that as they are smaller due to the weight restrictions at the Academy.  However, for BYU to make this an advantage they need to put together a strong running game to impose their will on the smaller defensive line.  Also, the way the Falcon offense works by controlling the clock that will keep the defensive line fresh.

VTF: If BYU were to go with one QB for the entire game, who would the Falcons choose to face?

JM: Great question, but probably Jake Heaps because he is less elusive then Riley Nelson and that will allow the Falcons to bring pressure knowing that Heaps is less of a threat to maneuver his way out of a heavy blitz.  Plus, the secondary will be able to concentrate on their receivers since Heaps is not a threat to run the ball nor will BYU call any option plays to draw in the secondary.