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Independence Bowl

Air Force vs. Georgia Tech

Betting Line: Air Force -2.5 o/u 56

12/27/10

Last year's Independence Bowl saw Georgia blow out Texas A & M 44-20. This year's matchup between Air Force and Georgia Tech should be much more interesting. The Yellow Jackets regressed off their Orange Bowl appearance in 2009 to finish 6-6 this year. They have lost 4 of their last 5 games. Air Force, winners of 3 in a row at 8-4, have to be much more excited and interested here. Both of these teams boast a unique running game. Defense will be the name of the game. Which team can shut the other one down? Let's take a look.

Georgia Tech's defense ranks 60th in the nation in Points Against at 26.2 PPG. North Carolina State and Georgia burned them for 45 and 42 points, respectively. Clemson was able to rush for 236 yards and Miami got 277 yards on the ground against this team. 5 times this year they have allowed 400+ total yards and 2 times they gave up more than 500. Every team that played Georgia Tech got 135+ rushing yards except for Duke. This could be a huge problem for Georgia Tech. They are going to have to go score for score against Air Force to win this game.

Air Force's defense ranks 37th in the country in Points Against at 22.3 PPG. Other than TCU when they allowed 38 points, the largest amount of points they have allowed this year is 28. That is an extremely solid number. The total yards tell a different story though. TCU hammered this team for 377 rushing yards. A down BYU team got 221 and Army racked up 244. A whopping 6 teams rushed for more than 200 yards on Air Force this year. They will have a harder time stopping Josh Nesbitt and company than the Points Against statistic leads us to believe. 

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Now that we have looked at the defenses it is time to analyze the offenses. Both of these teams can score and both like to pound the rock.

Senior Josh Nesbitt hasn't been nearly as effective at QB this year as he was in 2009. He has 8 less rushing TDs at 10 and 400 fewer yards at 737. His passing game has suffered too. He has completed only 39 passes this year compared to 75 last year. The Yellow Jackets rely on him to do a disproportionate amount of the offensive work and he can't handle it. RB Anthony Allen is the only other playmaker. The senior has 217 carries for 1,225 yards and 6 TDs this year. It shouldn't be hard for this crew to pick up yardage against a weak Air Force run defense, but they will have to snap out of the funk that has taken hold of them in the latter half of the year.

Junior QB Tim Jefferson is the heart and soul of the Air Force offense. He has rushed for 769 yards and 15 TDs this year, while passing for 1,342 yards and 10 more TDs. His best game of the year came when he rushed for 57 yards and 2 TDs and passed for 124 yards and 2 TDs against Army. The 6-1 220 lbs Atlanta, GA native doesn't make many mistakes. Fellow Georgia native Asher Clark is a force at RB to complement Jefferson. Clark has 1,001 rushing yards on 174 attempts for 5 TDs. When all is said and done it is hard to imagine these two having problems against a weak Georgia Tech defense. They could post some of their best stats of the year in this game if things go their way.

While not a Key Release, we like Air Force in this spot. Yards per point numbers are similar here, and Georgia Tech did play a slight stronger schedule, but a closer look against "good" teams sees Air Force with the better performances. Tech was spanked by teams like Miami while Air Force played 3 top 10 teams, playing close games with Utah and Oklahoma with only TCU being able to stretch the margin. When you factor in that, plus the fact that Tech dropped 4 of their last 5 and Air Force is on a roll to end the year, we'd prefer Air Force -2.5

Predicted Score - Air Force 31 Georgia Tech 24
 

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