Three Keys: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Connor Dietz (Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)

It may seem like it has been three months since Air Force last played football but it is finally time for the Falcons to take the field against Rice in the Armed Forces Bowl. We have spent the last week or so breaking down the different aspects of the Owls team and now it is time to predict what Air Force will have to do to beat them. Here are the final three keys of the season.

1) Reverse the momentum

Rice and Air Force have a lot of things in common. Both teams feature run games which can control the clock and wear down an opponent physically. Both enter the game with a 6-6 record. Both have offenses which can score points in bunches. There is, however, one clear difference between the two squads, and that is momentum.

While Air Force was going winless in Commander-in-Chief's Trophy games and dropping three of its last four when a Mountain West title was up for grabs, Rice got hot, molten hot. The Owls started the season 1-5 before flipping the switch and finishing 5-1 including victories against some of the best in the C-USA. As everyone knows momentum is hugely important in college athletics and Rice has all of it in this game.

The one thing on the side of the Flacons is that it has been so long since the Owls played that they may have cooled off somewhat. Air Force will need to keep Rice quiet early, look for a conservative opening quarter, to keep that momentum in check.

2) Win the rushing battle

Yes, Rice is a more balanced team offensively than Air Force, but both want to come out running the ball and dominating the time of possession. Connor Dietz, Cody Getz, and company have the third best rushing attack in the country (328 ypg) and are going up against a defense which has been gashed for an average of 193 yards each time out. With the Air Force rushing defense being equally suspect the Owls ground game, led by Charles Ross, will be a factor. This is pretty simple, whichever team runs the ball better will win the game.

3) Bring new wrinkles to the option

The option attack is deadly against teams who don't often see it and have just a week to prepare for its nuances during the regular season. Unfortunately the weakness of the option is that with time (three weeks in this case) the skilled defensive coordinators in the modern collegiate game can scheme ways to limit its effectiveness and essentially shut it down. As a result Air Force will have to work aspects as simple as more passes, and as complex as more trick plays and different looks, if they are to avoid the possibility that Rice is simply prepared enough to shut the option down.

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