The Air Force Academy has been a tough out for years, but the Falcons could be a serious factor this year not only in the Mountain West Conference, but also in the Group of Five and FBS level overall. We discuss why that's possible in our Air Force preview.
Air Force 2023 Preview
The conference: Mountain West Conference
2022 record: 10-3 (defeated Baylor 30-15 in Armed Forces Bowl)
Conference finish: 5-3 (tied for second in MWC)
Head coach: Troy Calhoun (17th year at school and overall, 121-78 record)
Five all-star candidates: Trey Taylor (senior), safety (60 tackles, 2 interceptions); Thor Paglialong (senior), center (13 starts last year); Jayden Thiergood (senior), defensive tackle (23 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss); Bo Richter (senior), defensive end (26 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss); Camby Goff (senior), safety (42 tackles, 9 pass breakups, 2 interceptions)
Whenever you combine 63 returning lettermen — as Air Force has — with the way the Falcons play ball, it produces solid results. That's why things look good for the Air Force Academy in 2023. Remember, Air Force football these days isn't based on throwing for umpteen-thousand yards. This program is built to strangle the clock and not give its opponent's offense a chance to get on the field — that's the recipe. Air Force's offense sets up its defense.
There's a realistic chance for the Falcons to go 4-0 in non-conference play. They don't play Fresno State, and they play host to comparable upper-tier conference programs such as San Diego State and Wyoming. Don't forget that eight starters return on defense. Air Force will be a tough out in 2023.
The Key Game and Why
The big one is early when San Diego State visits the state of Colorado to face the Falcons on their home turf on Sept. 30. That will be a pivotal game in the Mountain West Conference.
The Toughest Game and Why
Aside from playing Army in Denver for the Commander in Chief Trophy (a big deal for those who know academy football), the obvious choice is the road trip on Nov. 25 to face potential MWC champion Boise State. There is at least a decent chance that this matchup could repeat just a week later in a Mountain West Conference championship game.
The Chances of Winning Conference Title
Those chances are decent, with that trip to Idaho at the end of the year looming large. Air Force is solid this year, but there are landmines. Programs such as San Diego State, Wyoming, and Fresno State could mess up that expectation in the standings. This should be a fun dynamic to watch.
Air Force will clearly be one of the top Group of Five teams in 2023. As the Falcons' bowl win over Power Five Baylor proved last year, this is a dangerous opponent. Air Force could win double-digit games and make a bowl game. The question is, will it ruin Boise State's supposed spot at the top of all of this, or will the Falcons be just a tad behind it? There's no question this program will be a tough matchup for the vast majority of the Mountain West Conference — as well as for the service academies that matter as much to the USAFA supporters as the MWC does.
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