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Utah (6-4) @ Air Force (4-5)

AT
Date & Time: November 18th, 2006
TV: mtn
Radio: AM 700 The Zone
Location: Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, Colorado
All-time series: Air Force leads 13-9
Last meeting: 2005 (Utah 38, Air Force 35)

Utah looks for its 7th win of the season as they travel to play Air Force this Saturday. The Falcons, 4-5 on the season, are coming off a 39-17 loss to Notre Dame and will be looking for their first victory over the Utes since defeating them 30-26 in 2002. This will be Utah's first trip to Colorado Springs since Air Force and Utah played their epic 3 overtime game in November of 2003.

The Falcons will prove to be a great challenge for the Utes, as their wishbone offense has plagued Utah for years. Last season Utah built a solid lead over the Falcons, only to watch it slip away before hanging on to a 38-35 victory in Salt Lake City. This year, without the benefit of a home crowd, Utah will probably need to sustain a lead if they want to leave the Academy with a victory.

Air Force's offense thrives when it can control the clock and if Utah's offense can't contend, it could be a long afternoon. The Falcons rely on wearing down defenses with their wishbone attack and since Air Force struggles on the defensive end, the success of their opponent often comes from their ability to stop the Falcons offense and get enough points on the board to where Air Force's clock eating offense stalls. If Utah can shut down Air Force's offense, they should have no problem winning the game. However shutting down that offense will prove to be difficult.

In each of the past 5 contests against the Falcons, Utah's defense has given up 30 or more points. And while they've won three of five, two of those games were played in Salt Lake City and the third victory came in a third OT. In other words, Air Force will most likely score and the game will probably be close. The average score over the past 5 games has been 39-36 in Utah's favor.

Utah needs to beat Air Force at their own game and use a clock controlled offense that will keep the Falcons' offense off the field. Limited offensive options by Utah and a lack of a running game would most likely mean the Utes are doomed if they get down early. But if they move the ball well enough and score on some time eating drives, they should be able to sustain enough progress to either defeat the Falcons or at least put themselves in position to do so.

One thing going for the Utes is that the Falcons have struggled recently. While they took Tennessee to the wire and opened the season 3-2, they've struggled since, going 1-3 in their last 4 games. This seems to be typical for the Falcons, as recently they've fizzled as the season has progressed. The last time Utah played Air Force this late in the season was back in 2001 when they played them at the start of December. That game Utah lost on poor clock control and the Falcons were actually pretty good that year. No one will mistake this Air Force team for the squad they fielded in 2001, so that should benefit the Utes.

Like the past few years, Air Force has a pretty mediocre defense that gives up a lot of yards, especially on the ground. Only San Diego State and UNLV give up more offensive yards a game, which should help Utah's offense. Yet even with Air Force's poor defense, the Utes can't turn the ball over, or the Falcons will throttle them.

Utah hasn't blown out Air Force in years and even in 2004 the Falcons were only beat by 14 points. I don't see that changing this time around, but wouldn't be surprised if the Falcons blew the Utes out of the water. I expect a close game, but am not about to make a prediction because these games are often unpredictable.