Air Force could’ve been headed for a huge season in 2016, but a mid-year slip cost them a couple wins at home against beatable teams. The Falcons eventually finished at 10-3 with a bowl win, although the Mountain division was within reach after a nice close to the season that includedwins over Colorado State and Boise State.
Matching that total will be tough, but the offense should be just as good after scoring 35.2 points per Game and having their usual success on the ground. Quarterback Arion Worthman got experience in the second half of last year and never lost a Game in six starts. His ability on the ground (674 yards, 6 TDs) is a key trait, but staying healthy will be his No. 1 goal even with former starting QB Nate Romine still on the roster. In the backfield, Tim McVey takes the lead after garnering 8.5 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns last year. If he can post those same numbers with more touches, this offense will be fine, especially with a line that returns plenty of talent. The line only loses two starters, while getting back three to go with tight end Ryan Reffitt, all seniors. But even with Worthman being a better rusher, there will be new options in the passing Game with Jalen Robinette gone. If the passing Game doesn’t have that explosive option, it may take away some potential from the triple-option.
Defense is the biggest question for the Falcons, which seems to be the case for most teams in the MWC outside of the top couple. This group will still blitz plenty, but has 10 new starters coming in to work with. Grant Ross is the only player that finished in the top 13 of tackles on this unit a year ago, so that’s something to keep in mind. This defense won’t completely fall off because a lot of these guys have experience in backup roles, but it’s hard to see them being better than the team from a year ago that allowed 26.2 points per Game, which also includes giving up 45 points multiple times in Conference play.
To go with that, the Schedule doesn’t allow for the Air Force defense to settle in with trips to Michigan, New Mexico and Navy early. A Game against SDSU sits in the middle of those, so it wouldn’t be a stretch if the Falcons had Four losses in their first five Games. Ten wins are out of the picture with trips to CSU and BSU still on the Schedule. It would be a surprise if Air Force didn’t reach a bowl, but given what the defense looks like, it wouldn’t be a stretch if this team struggled to put together wins. Worthman and McVey can only do so much, especially if the defense is allowing 30-plus points every Game.
But even with a tough Schedule, Air Force still has decent +2500 odds (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the MWC. That puts them in the same spot as New Mexico, fighting for Fourth in the Mountain division.
2017 Air Force Falcons Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. VMI
Sept. 16 at Michigan
Sept. 23 vs. San Diego State
Sept. 30 at New Mexico
Oct. 7 at Navy
Oct. 14 vs. UNLV
Oct. 20 at Nevada
Oct. 28 at Colorado State
Nov. 4 vs. Army
Nov. 11 vs. Wyoming
Nov. 18 at Boise State
Nov. 25 vs. Utah State