#93 Air Force 2018 Football Preview

Air Force Falcons
Overall Rank: #93
#7 Mountain West
 Air Force Logo
Air Force had relatively high expectations heading into the 2017 campaign, but they struggled on both sides of the ball and ended up missing out on a bowl game. This year the Falcons have some rebuilding to do, but if quarterback Arion Worthman can get back to his 2016 form, Air Force will have a dangerous offense.
2017 Record: 5-7, 4-4
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Troy Calhoun (82-60 at Air Force, 82-60 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Thiessen
Defensive Coordinator: TBA
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Arion Worthman, QB, 831 yards
Passing: Arion Worthman, QB, 1,115 yards
Receiving: Marcus Bennett, WR, 403 yards
Tackles: Kyle Floyd, LB, 60
Sacks: Lakota Wills, LB, 2.0
Interceptions: 3 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: WR Ronald Cleveland, FB Taven Birdow
Key Losses: RB Tim McVey, OL Alex Norton, LB Grant Ross, LB Jack Flor, DB Marquis Griffin
Worthman threw for 1,115 yards and ran for 831 yards in 2017. He totaled 23 touchdowns. That was not bad, but he was much, much more efficient two years ago. His completion percentage dropped nearly ten points and the opposition had a much easier time focusing their run defense on the quarterback. Much of that had to do with an offensive line that often struggled. This year the line will be largely rebuilt, but it is an athletic group. The rest of the skill players need to step up and help take the pressure off Worthman and Coach Troy Calhoun has plenty of options. Receivers Marcus Bennett and Geraud Sanders can make big plays and the stable of rushers is impressive. Joseph Saucier and Ronald Cleveland should get a majority of the carries, but the Falcons will continue to attack the ground game from a wide variety of rushers.
If Air Force is going to make a quick turnaround, the defense must improve too. Last year it was so easy to run against the Falcons. They allowed 222.8 yards per game on the ground and continually permitted the opposition to get ahead of the chains. That was a young group though and there is plenty of hope for improvement. The line boasts the most experience with seniors Micah Capra and Cody Gessier leading the way. Sophomore Jordan Jackson showed promise last season and has had a great spring. He could provide the team with a much needed pass rushing threat. Outside linebackers Lakota Wills and Kyle Floyd must help contain the run while the team breaks in a couple new inside linebackers to replace Grant Ross and Jack Flor. The secondary was not tested too often last year, but it is a solid, experienced group. Jeremy Fejedelem and Dailen Sutton will man the cornerback spots, while James Jones and a healthy Garrett Kauppila, who missed most of 2017 with an injury, are back at the safety positions.
The Bottom Line:
Air Force has the potential to turn things around, but if they are going to do it, they must win the turnover battle. The team had a -10 turnover margin on the season and that is no way to win games. If the Falcons fall behind due to turnovers, they have little chance at coming back. That is usually the case with a run heavy option offense, so it is vital for Air Force to avoid falling behind.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 307.4 (4th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 110.1 (125, 12)
Total Offense: 417.5 (48, 3)
Scoring Offense: 31.4 (44, 3)
Rushing Defense: 222.8 (117, 10)
Pass Defense: 171.1 (10, 1)
Total Defense: 393.9 (66, 5)
Scoring Defense: 32.4 (101, 9)
Turnover Margin: -0.83 (119, 10)
Sacks: 0.83 (129, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 1.83 (47, 5)