Game Preview: BYU vs. Air Force

Saturday marks the 30th meeting between BYU and the Air Force Academy. This series has included some historical meetings: BYU and Air Force met in 1982 in the first game played at newly expanded Cougar Stadium, as it was called back then; BYU and Air Force met in 1985 as two top 10 teams; and in 1998 they met in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championship game.

History also shows that this series has been one of the most lopsided serieses in BYU history. BYU has won 23 of the 29 contests between the two schools. However, the last 12 meetings have been more evenly matched, with BYU holding a 7-5 advantage. One hallmark of BYU teams has been their ability to effectively prepare for the Falcons’ option attack. Many BYU victories have been blowouts. Last year was not one of them. BYU trailed at halftime, but charged to a 14 point win after a fiery Austin Collie pep talk during the break.

This year, in addition to their style of play, Air Force has every Cougars’ attention for its play against the other top two Mountain West Conference (MWC) teams. The cadets lost to TCU and Utah by a combined score of 43-33. Tim Jefferson is in his second year leading the offense and the Falcons backfield is loaded with playmakers. As usual, BYU will have a decided size advantage, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.

Here is what I will be watching for:
  1. Will Harvey Unga break the career rushing record? I know I am starting to sound like a broken record, but this should be the week. He is 20 yards away from tying the record. If he does not break the record, something went seriously wrong.
  2. Will BYU avoid a losing record at home? Currently, the Cougars are 2-2 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2009. They must win this game to ensure they will not have a losing record at home. Such an idea would have been heresy before this year, now it is a stark reality.
  3. Will Max Hall win his 30th game as a starter? Max Hall will stand alone on the all-time wins list for BYU quarterbacks with a BYU win. With the rivalry game with Utah coming next week, I would much rather see Hall get the win this week. The fewer the distractions the better for the game against the Utes.
  4. Will the game be a blowout, shootout, or defensive battle? After the score to the New Mexico game last week, we should be ready for any outcome. If Air Force is able to control the clock with its run game, we could see a low scoring game similar to last week. Florida State was able to run at will against BYU, and if Air Force could replicate the Seminoles success we might see a high scoring shootout. The last 8 games in this series have been decided by 14 points or more, and 4 of those were by 21 or more.
Kickoff: 1:30 PM (MST)
TV: CBS College Sports
Radio: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM