How well will Utah play? I guess much of that answer rests with Ratliff's ability. If he struggles, then I expect Utah to struggle too. If he can have a solid game, the Utes should have enough offensive power to hang with Air Force and their tricky wishbone offense. I have a feeling we'll know fairly early in the game if the Utes are going to be able compete by their ability to achieve the following keys to victory.
- Utah needs to win the turnover battle. It's basically as simple as that, because if they lose the turnover battle, I think they'll lose this game. Air Force doesn't have a great defense, but their offense is pretty solid and has given the Utes fits over the years. Utah can't play to their strength and turning the ball over will do that.
- Utah needs solid offensive production. While winning the turnover battle is a big step toward victory, it does not necessarily guarantee a victory for the Utes. You can still have minimal turnovers and a lack of offensive production and that can't happen against Air Force. Basically, the Utes need to step it up on offense because the Air Force offensive game plan will be clock control and the longer they're on the field, the harder it will be for the Utes to find the end zone.
- Keep Shaun Carney and Air Force's wishbone offense in check. This offense can carve up Utah's defense and if this happens, I see two different scenarios. Either the Utes will be in a dogfight with the Falcons, or they'll get blown out of the water. Carney is an efficient quarterback that runs that style of offense to near perfection. Carney ranks 6th in the conference in rushing yards per game at 62.6. While he doesn't pass the ball much, he will get you on the ground. Utah can't allow him to get outside and that has been a weakness for the Utes' defense all season long.
- Don't let Chad Hall go off. If Utah contains Chad Hall, they should have a better chance at stopping Air Force's offense. In games where he averages more than 5 yards per carry, the Falcons are tough to stop. Last week Notre Dame held him to 3.4 yards per carry and won, two weeks earlier BYU held him to a season low 2.2 yards per carry and dominated. Hall's best game this season came against Wyoming, where he had 122 yards on 20 carries in a 31-24 victory. If the Utes hold him to 50 yards or less this week, they should be in good shape. Anything more and it could spell trouble.