Back to football. That's what Coach Jeff Monken needs to remind his men as they prepare for the high-powered Air Force offense this Saturday. Air Force enters at 5-2 and looking for bowl eligibility while Army, an inverse 2-5 record, will have to put this past weekend's recruiting scandal behind them as they look to get their season back on track. Both teams match up well on paper and run similar offenses, but Air Force has looked the most complete of the Service Academies this season. But anything can happen when Academies get together and play football.
Air Force is led by Kale Pearson, a senior quarterback who has almost eclipsed the 1000-yard mark passing this season, and a talented young sophomore in Jacobi Owens who has over 700 yards on the offense this season. Air Force, while their primary offense is a triple option, run more from an I-formation or the spread look, something Army got a taste of against Rice. The advantage Air Force has over Army and Navy is they play in the Mountain West and have evolved their offense to remain competitive against teams like Boise State (6-2) and Colorado State (a shocking 7-1). A win Sunday would all but ensure that the Falcons earn a spot in a bowl game and would award them with the Commander-In-Chief Trophy, their first since 2011.
Army, which has not won the Commander-in-Chief trophy since 1996, will be entering this game with questions about how well their defense will hold up a team that is averaging 30 points a game. Josh Jenkins will be tested all day as Pearson has proven he can sling the ball around with decent efficiency. If Army wants to contend in this game, they will need to pressure Pearson on 3rd down and prevent big plays down field.
Angel Santiago and A.J. Schurr will likely share snaps under center, with Santiago being the primary passer on 3rd downs. Larry Dixon and Terry Baggett will need to show up and produce against a defense that is surrendering 24 points a game, just above Army's average.
Match Up To Watch: Army Pass Rush vs Air Force Offensive Line
Army and Air Force both have similar admission standards for cadets, so the linemen will roughly be the same size. This will be a true test to see if the extra weight added on this off season will pay off for the Black Knights. If they can force Pearson to throw early, the Army secondary can hopefully cause some turnovers and give their offense plenty of opportunities to score.
Prediction: Army 35, AIr Force 30