#79 Air Force Football 2017 Preview

Air Force Falcons
Overall Rank: #79
#5 Mountain West
Following three straight losses in October to Wyoming, New Mexico and Hawaii, with the latter two at home, Air Force looked like a team that may have to limp their way into a bowl game. However, that was the last time the Falcons lost. Air Force reeled off six straight wins to finish off the 2016 season, including a regular season finale victory over Boise State and a win over South Alabama in the Arizona Bowl.
2016 Record: 10-3, 5-3
2016 Bowl: Arizona Bowl vs. South Alabama (W 45-21)
Coach: Troy Calhoun (77-53 at Air Force, 77-53 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Thiessen
Defensive Coordinator: Steve Russ
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tim McVey, RB, 708 yards
Passing: Nate Romine, QB, 1,206 yards
Receiving: Tim McVey, RB, 193 yards
Tackles: Grant Ross, LB, 67
Sacks: Grant Ross, LB, 2.5
Interceptions: None
Other Key Returnees: QB Arion Worthman, LB Jack Flor
Key Losses: RB Jacobi Owens, FB D.J. Johnson, RB Shayne Davern, WR Jale Robinette, OL Colin Sandor, OL Dylan Vail, DL Ryan Watson, DB Weston Steelhammer, DB Brodie Hicks, LB Haji Dunn, K Luke Strebel
On offense it looks like more of the same for the Falcons. The option offense is in great hands with quarterback Arion Worthman. In seven games he rushed for 674 yards and six scores and threw for 546 yards and four touchdowns. Nate Romine is back too and provides even more experience under center. But it was Worthman, along with Tim McVey, who led the team down the stretch. McVey rushed for 708 yards and ten scores. The Falcons do need to replace some fullbacks and Jacobi Owens, but expect the ground game to be extremely difficult for any opponent to contain. As usual, the line is experienced, but the middle of the line may have a few concerns without guard Colin Sandor and center Dylan Vail.
Air Force boasted a superb defense last year, but injuries eventually took their toll. The team allowed just 114.2 yards per game on the ground, but now have to replace most of the experience in the front seven. Tackle Santo Coppola is by far the most experienced lineman. He recorded 2.0 sacks last season. Grant Ross and Jack Flor are the most experienced linebackers. Ross tallied 67 tackles, while Flor recorded 28 in limited action. Those three will have to emerge as the leaders of a new look front seven. The story in the secondary is more of the same with Weston Steelhammer and Brodie Hicks needing to be replaced. The secondary was not very good, but those two could make some big plays. There are plenty of upperclassmen on the roster, but there is very little experience.
The Bottom Line:
Air Force will be tested early when they face Michigan in Ann Arbor on September 16th. The Falcons will not win that game, but it will be interesting to see what the potent Air Force offense can do against a good defense. There are lots of road games after the Wolverines contest. After a home date against San Diego State, Air Force plays four of their next five games on the road. If they do not win one or two of those contests, even bowl eligibility will start to look extremely difficult.
Projected Bowl: Idaho Potato Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 317.4 (3rd in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 134.8 (123, 11)
Total Offense: 452.2 (36, 4)
Scoring Offense: 35.2 (30, 5)
Rushing Defense: 114.2 (10, 2)
Pass Defense: 250.7 (94, 12)
Total Defense: 364.8 (33, 2)
Scoring Defense: 26.2 (49, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.46 (28, 2)
Sacks: 2.31 (45, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (19, 4)