Andy Ludwig is going to have to realize this game will be won or lost by Utah's running game. If the running game can't find any traction, Air Force will have no problem rolling to victory. Tommy Grady is not a good enough quarterback to lead this team without some semblance of a running game.
The problem Utah runs into here is the fact they have not had a strong running game since Whittingham became head coach. For whatever reason, the running game just has not shown any progress since 2005 and I'm having a hard time believing it's a lack of talent. In my mind, Poston, Stowers, Liti and Mack could start on most Mountain West teams, yet they have been rather unremarkable in their production. That will have to change this week for Utah to have any chance in this game. If it does not, well then, I think the writing is on the wall for this coaching staff and it might be wise to cut our ties sooner rather than later.
Yet I still hold out hope the Utes can find a ground game. They have shown some signs of running well, but keeping it consistent has always been an issue. In this game against the Falcons, I expect them to go to Mack more times than they typically would. That means the offensive line is going to have to create holes and block for Mack to have any success on his carries. That is the biggest key to this game and I think we will have a good idea early on if the offense is successful at rushing the ball.
If Utah does rush well, I think this game will be a ground it out style. That was something we saw last year in Colorado Springs and one that I ultimately think favors the Utes. They need to work the Falcon defense and wear them down by the fourth quarter, then make a run to put away the game. I have confidence that can be done, but until I see it, I will have my doubts. I honestly think the running situation is not nearly as bad as we suspect, but it will take some offensive ingenuity for it to have success. Does Ludwig have that play calling ability? Well, in the past Utah's offense has done fairly well with its back against the wall, so I'm hoping that's the case this Saturday.
The run will open Grady's passing game, which Utah should utilize through short and midrange passes like they did against Oregon State. I don't have faith in Grady being able to open it up down field, but he seems to do well enough on those short passes. Hopefully he can again Saturday.
If this game turns into a shoot out, that will favor Air Force, because of their experience at quarterback. But I do believe Utah will slow the pace down and the game might actually be fairly low scoring. If that's the case, Utah stands a pretty good shot of winning and going up 1-0 in conference play.