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CU at Air Force: “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ Attempt at Redemption

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU at Air Force, can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can find the podcast here.

Yuck.

If you are reading this, you are a great CU fan. I thank you for your interest and loyalty.

The University of Colorado football program has given you little reason to have faith that they have it figured out. That this team has found a way to be competitive against quality competition.

That this team can compete against Air Force.

Las Vegas put the line at 13.5 points, which quickly moved up past two touchdowns.  CU is a three-score underdog against the only non-Power Five conference team on its schedule.

Right now, it’s hard to Colorado being favored in any of its remaining games. Frankly, it’s hard to see the Buffs being considered less than a touchdown underdog in any of its remaining games.

Last week there was optimism about CU’s future. We were not rewarded.

Next week, there may be renewed optimism about CU’s future.

Can the Buffs begin their “Redemption Tour” with an upset win over an overconfident Air Force team? Or will the Falcons run around, over and through the CU defense as TCU did in the second half of the opener?

Let’s find out …

This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU at Air Force – Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, CBS

T – Talent

582 yards rushing.

691 total yards … over 10 yards per play … 7-for-11 on third downs … 48 points.

Yes, it was 48 points against Northern Iowa, with Air Force taking out the Panthers, 48-17, in the opener.

Northern Iowa may be an FCS team, but they are not a bad FCS team. The Panthers are a fixture in the FCS playoffs, and routinely give Iowa and Iowa State fits (witness the 16-10 loss to No. 7 Iowa State last season).

But the Falcons ran right over the Panthers – right after they went over the top. Facing a defense selling out against the run, Air Force took to the air for its first touchdown, an 80-yarder from quarterback Haaziq Daniels to Dane Kinamon. Shortly thereafter, Kinamon scored on a 71-yard run … and the rout was on.

The Air Force offense is in the capable hands of its senior quarterback. Last season, Daniels set the school record for the longest run (94 yards v. Florida Atlantic) and its longest pass (92 yards v. Colorado State). Just when you think you have figured out a way to stop Daniels from running, he will beat you with his arm … Against Louisville in the First Responder Bowl, Daniels completed 9-of-10 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for two touchdowns.

Daniels returns as a three-year starter, and has most of the playmakers returning from a 10-3 team. Senior fullback Brad Roberts ran for 1,352 yards last year, third-most in school history. Against Northern Iowa, Roberts had eight carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. In all, Air Force had five rushers going for at least 77 yards, including Daniels, who had 107 yards on 12 carries.

Air Force led the nation in rushing during the 2021 campaign, averaging 327.7 yards per game … and are, undeniably, off to a good start in 2022.

For those teams hoping to just outscore the Falcons, think again.

Air Force was fourth in the nation in total defense last fall, giving up just 296.5 yards per game, finishing 16th in scoring defense, surrendering 19.8 points per game.

The Falcons did lose some multiyear starters on defense, but have some potential first-team All-Mountain West performers returning, including linebacker Vince Sanford and safety Trey Taylor. Taylor, though, is the only starter returning in the defensive backfield, making the Falcons somewhat susceptible to a strong passing attack.

If a team has one …

 

I – Intangibles

Colorado has a 12-5 all-time advantage in the series, including a 28-27 win in 1974, the last time the two teams played in Colorado Springs.

The Falcons, though, won the last time the two teams played, a 30-23 overtime victory in Boulder in 2019.

The game was played in three parts. Colorado jumped out to a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter, but didn’t score again until 6:09 remained to be played in the game. In the interim, Air Force scored 23 points, dominating on both sides of the ball for over 45 minutes of game clock. The Buffs came alive late, with two touchdowns in the final six minutes to send the game into overtime, but were not able to sustain the momentum into the extra period.

Played three seasons ago, both rosters are littered with players who participated in that game. For the Buffs, two of the most important players who have experience playing against the Air Force option are defensive lineman Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami, both of whom started in the 2019 game. Two other defensive lineman, Na’im Rodman and Janaz Jordan, also played against the Falcons.

Will having experience playing against the Falcons help Lang and Sami do a better job? We’ll see …

While CU doesn’t gain much from playing Air Force, the same is not true for the Falcons. Just as it is for the CSU Rams, playing Colorado is a win/win. Lose to a Power Five conference opponent? Well, you’re supposed to. Defeat the state’s flagship program? You’ve got some serious bragging rights.

Air Force, with CU and CSU struggling, is already the premier program in the state. Saturday’s game gives the Falcons the opportunity to make a statement … and you can be sure the players in the Air Force program know it.

Meanwhile, in Boulder … 

“I think the part that disappointed me the most was in the fourth quarter when we were down 14-6 and then especially once it was 17-6, I just saw way too many heads drop,” senior tight end and captain Brady Russell said. “I saw way too much defeat when we were still very, very much part of the game. If we started executing like we did in the first half then we could have made it a game very easily. But I saw way too many heads drop. That’s why I’m so mad right now. We had too many people give up and that’s not the team we formed this offseason.”

Inside linebacker Quinn Perry sat next to Russell at the TCU post-game press conference, and agreed with his fellow captain.

“Some dudes mentally checked out at halftime,” Perry said. “If we’re gonna be on the field doing our jobs, what the hell’s going on? I think there’s a lot of internal stuff with guys that did not show up during fall camp and during practices and stuff that we have to adjust. It just has to be taken out of their mind completely, because that’s not who we are as a team.”

Wow … just wow.

This is language you’d expect to hear about a team which is 2-9, playing out the string … not about a team which has just played its first game of the season.

Has Dorrell already lost the locker room … before Labor Day?

 

P – Preparation/Schedule

It’s been much discussed here and elsewhere … It’s hard to prepare for the option offense.

Teams in the Mountain West Conference at least have the opportunity to play Air Force on a regular basis.

For those teams who play Air Force as a non-conference opponent … good luck.

Air Force is 3-0 against Power Five competition in the past three seasons, defeating Colorado, Washington State and Louisville (the latter two in bowl games).

When CU faced Air Force in 2019, then-head coach Mel Tucker devoted some time every day throughout fall camp to work on an Air Force game plan, but the Falcons still came away with a 30-23 overtime victory in Boulder.

When I did interviews with CU players this past spring, they were already looking at film on Air Force. Summer drills had elements looking past the TCU game, looking forward to playing the Falcons.

Practice, as the Buffs have learned, however, doesn’t make perfect.

This is a distinct advantage for Air Force … as it is for almost every team the Falcons’ schedule.

Any advantages for the Buffs?

Two (very) small ones …

  • Colorado played on Friday; Air Force on Saturday. Now, the CU game, thanks in part to a 35-minute lightning delay, didn’t finish its game until 11:58 p.m., MT. – only about a dozen hours before the Falcons kicked off. Still, the Buffs and their coaches were in position to watch the Air Force/Northern Iowa game with their first game already in the books; and
  • Both teams will be on the road next week. Colorado will have their rematch with Minnesota, while Air Force will be heading off to Laramie to face Wyoming. Only slight advantage for the Buffs: CU has a non-conference game, while Air Force is starting Mountain West conference play, and against a rival on the road. Considering that the Falcons may be discounting the Buffs based on Week One’s performances, the Buffs may have the element of surprise.

 

S – Statistics 

Stats don’t mean anything after only one game … except when they do.

After the first week of play, Air Force is again leading the nation in rushing, and it isn’t even close.

As noted, Air Force had 582 yards rushing against Northern Iowa. The second team in the national rankings after Week One? Marshall, with 380 yards.

Yup … the Falcons are over 200 yards ahead of every other team in the nation in rushing (CU, ahem, had 113 yards rushing against TCU).

(Air Force also leads the nation in total offense, with 691 yards, but you get the point).

Stats to watch (i.e, stats which will play a role in deciding the game)Turnovers … The Buffs failed to force a turnover against TCU, and CU’s inability to stop the Horned Frogs with an interception or a fumble certainly contributed to the lopsided rout in the second half. Colorado was +6 in turnover margin last season (29th nationally). If the Buffs can’t force any turnovers against the Falcons, it will be left to the defense to force stops on its own … and that wouldn’t be pretty … Leading us to … Third down conversions … CU was only 6-of-15 on third down conversions against TCU (and 0-for-3 on fourth down), while surrendering five first downs on 11 attempts by TCU. Those percentages need to be flipped for the Buffs to have a chance … Plus … Red zone conversions … The Buffs had three opportunities in the red zone against the Horned Frogs, and came away with two field goals and zero touchdowns. Going 0-for-3 in touchdown chances in the red zone won’t get you a victory over anybody, and certainly won’t work against a ten-win team.

Prediction … 

The only thing good about being a team which is always an underdog – the only thing – is that there are reduced expectations.

No one outside of the Champions Center believes the Buffs will defeat the Falcons, and, if some of the player’s comments are taken at face value, there are some within the Champions Center who have also given up on their own team.

Not a great recipe for a team which is facing an offense which is highly effective at running the ball, just a week after the team was gashed up the middle by a team not known for its rushing attack.

Is there hope for the Buffs? Sure. The game still has to be played, and perhaps, just perhaps, Karl Dorrell will start J.T. Shrout, and the Buffs will pass the ball all over Falcon Stadium, with CU out-scoring Air Force.

Last week, I picked CU to upset TCU. I finished with: “We’ll give Karl Dorrell the benefit of the doubt … for at least the first week”. 

The reverse is now true.

We won’t give the Buffs the benefit of the doubt … until they earn it.

Air Force won its opener against Northern Iowa, 48-17.

The Buffs are better than the Panthers, aren’t they?

We’ll see …

Prediction … Air Force 42, Colorado 17

2022 Predictions … (Straight up: 0-1; Against the Spread: 0-1) … 

  • Colorado 27, TCU 24 … Actual: TCU 38, Colorado 13

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7 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU at Air Force”

  1. On Saturday, we will see a team that is focused, disciplined, has leadership at the coaching and player levels, has an identity, and consistently overachieves.

    That will be the Air Force Falcons.

    I have gone to Falcons games over the decades, sometimes more than once per year. They are my second favorite team after the Buffs. I have seen the Falcons lose games but I have not left the stadium disappointed because they leave it all on the field. And most importantly, they are here to serve the country.

    On the opposite side, there will be the CU Buffaloes. Our program currently displays the opposite characteristics. Nonetheless, I will root for the Buffs as I have for 50 years. I am not “done”, as others have mentioned, yet. I may be by the end of 2023 if we do not see improvement in the form of bowl eligibility by then. Patience has its eventual limits.

    I am not leaving a score prediction. Instead, I will sit in the stadium on Saturday with friends and family and one way or another, will walk out and see either the Buffs win (which would be extraordinarily positive) or the Falcons triumph (which would add to my admiration for the Academy).

  2. If you have never been to a Zoomie game at Falcon Stadium you should probably make the trip. My wife is an Airforce (06) brat ( on her mothers side and 07 and 08) so I been to quite a few. Family reunions. And you know I like the military stuff being an infantry officer combat veteran my self.
    The whole day for me is quite thrilling and hypnotizing. Inner note: Guess you have to have participated to understand/appreciate it.

    Won’t be there this weekend though as the kids are taking us up some canyon to stay in some cabin and to some hullabaloo concert I think. They said we will like it. A present from children to parents. No special event, just something they decided to do. Sweet eh?
    Buffs win 37-31

    A week late, but not a dollar short.

    Note: Funny how some of these pundits can repeat stuff has been repeated by other pundits with there spin on it. woo woo. The worst though is Rooney saying HCKD has lost the locker room and here it is repeated in this article. Wow actually. It is a time to be wondering . Just a sign of the times…………..you see it everywhere.. so…………Praise the Lord and Hoard……………….

  3. I like the Buffs to win if they start Shrout. The TCU loss wasn’t as bad as it felt. CU dominated in the first half, was unable to convert in the Red Zone, gave up a special teams TD and made zero adjustments to TCU’s decision to run the ball in the second half. The Buffs won’t stop Air Force from scoring but they will slow them down. Expect Shrout to start and perform, subsequently the Buffs run game will get a needed boost. 38-35 Buffs.

  4. OUCH STUART!!!! But Until I see an actual change.CU will go winless…
    AF-38 CU-21

    Last week I took TCU 31-17
    Straight up/ATS 1-0/1-0

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