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A quick look: Air Force

Over the summer I will be previewing all of Utah's opponents. I've already done Oregon State and today I'll take a look at Air Force, who Utah will play the second week of the season.

2006 Record
4-8(3-5 MWC, Sixth)
Season in review
Fisher DeBerry's final season with Air Force turned out to be a bad one. After leading the Falcons for 23 years, DeBerry announced that he would not be back as Air Force's coach. It wasn't a surprise though, as the Falcons limped to a 4-8 season, their third straight losing campaign.

Air Force had entered the year with low expectations and that's exactly how their season panned out. Though early on it did appear that the Falcons might be poised for a run, after barely losing to Tennessee and then beating Wyoming and New Mexico on their way to a 3-0 conference start, and then the bottom fell out. The Falcons would win only one other game the rest of the season (a romp over Army) and ended the year on a 4 game losing streak.

Interesting Fact
Over the past few years, Air Force has been consistently bad toward the end of each season. That streak continued last year, as the Falcons were 2-7 from October until the end of the year. Since 2000, they're 24-32 in the months of October, November and December, only once having an above .500 record during that span (2000).
Troy Calhoun not only has the task of following a legend, but also rebuilding the program he inherited. Which means not only does he have to live up to DeBerry's greatness, he also must do so with a lesser program than typically those coaches that follow a legend. But while that could spell trouble for Calhoun, it also may ease the pressure and actually give him time to develop his own style and niche within the Falcon family.

And so it is, for the first time in 24 years, Air Force will be led by someone other than Fisher DeBerry. What is in store for Falcon football? How about an entirely new offense, tailored around the power running game and not the wishbone offense so many Mountain West fans have been accustom to over the years. We won't know until the end of the year, or even later, if this offense will prove to be successful in Colorado Springs, but you've got to give Calhoun credit, he's definitely shaking things up.

Luckily for Calhoun, he returns a veteran quarterback in Shaun Carney, but his ability might be limited by the fact the Falcons need to replace four starters on the offensive line. With a running game in place, it will be vital for the Falcons o-line to create holes and open things up. If the offensive line struggles, the Falcons offense will most likely be impotent, no matter how good Carney is. The good news for Air Force however is that they return 8 starters on defense. That might keep them competitive if the offense does struggle this season. However last year saw a pretty mediocre Air Force defense and if those troubles continue this season (giving up 2,561 yards through the air and 1,695 on the ground), they won't be improved enough to make a splash.

The big question though will be whether Calhoun's offense can work with Air Force's players. I've always thought that the service academies (Navy, Army and Air Force) are best served using non-traditional gimmick offenses, like the triple option flexbone Paul Johnson runs at Navy. Mostly because I'm not sure Air Force has the horses to run a traditional offense and if they don't, Calhoun's team will struggle mightily in the years to come.

Air Force will be a tough opponent, but Utah's troubles against the Falcons always came from DeBerry's annoying triple option. For whatever reason, Kyle Whittingham defenses have struggled with that offense and I'm thankful it's gone. Now whether Calhoun can coach won't be known for a while, so I don't expect the Falcons to do much this season. They'll probably put a scare into one or two good teams, but I would be shocked if they could pull out a winning season, or a bowl berth.

Quick Look
Head Coach: Troy Calhoun (0-0)
Last Bowl: 2002 San Francisco Bowl (20-13 loss to Virginia Tech)
Returning Starters: 8 on defense, 6 on offense
2007 Schedule:
South Carolina State
@ Navy
@ Colorado State
@ New Mexico
@ Notre Dame
@ San Diego State