One of the great unknowns about college football is the mindset of a college kid. Most of us have been there, dealing with the classes, the relationships, the financial worries, and the 2 a.m. pizzas while finishing up a paper. Add a Division I sport to the equation and it can be even tougher to figure out. Add a new coach to the equation and mindblown.gif. As it turns out the Fresno State Bulldogs find themselves taking the field for a new head coach and they’ll do so against the triple-option offense of the Air Force Academy. The Falcons are heavy chalk for this visit to California.
Air Force vs. Fresno State College Football Preview
Date/Time: Thursday October 27, 10:30 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes
College Football Betting Favorite: Air Force -14
The Air Force Falcons were flying high through four games, including a win over the Navy Midshipmen to draw first blood in the quest for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy. Well, things changed very quickly. Air Force has dropped three straight, including games against New Mexico and Hawaii, which is very uncharacteristic of any above average team in the Mountain West. High expectations coming into the season for Air Force cannot be met now, as the team sits at 4-3 straight up and 3-4 against the spread. Fresno State has a new head coach in former offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau. This is Kiesau’s first year in the program. He takes over for Tim DeRuyter, who lost Derek Carr, Davante Adams, and Robbie Rouse and never recovered. The Bulldogs are just 1-7 straight up, but they are 4-3 against the number, including a three-game winning streak at the betting window.
Air Force Falcons:
We all know what Air Force is going to do. They’re going to run the football. It’s actually quarterback Nate Romine that needs to do more, though. Romine has only completed 40 of his 99 pass attempts this season and he’s only rushed for 2.9 yards per carry. Air Force doesn’t have as many quarterback runs as Navy or Army, but the quarterback still needs to do better than that in this scheme. DJ Johnson, the leading rusher in carries and yardage, hasn’t found the end zone for any of AFA’s 17 rushing touchdowns. Timothy McVey has five to lead the team. The Falcons are only rushing for 4.7 yards per carry. The Falcons receivers do have 27.5 yards per catch when Romine can get them the ball and Jalen Robinette is the standout there with 21 catches for 568 yards and four scores.
The Air Force defense has been a big letdown over the last three weeks. You normally don’t see a run of overs with an option offense, but the Falcons have given up 35, 45, and 34 points to Wyoming, New Mexico, and Hawaii on the season. Air Force has only forced eight turnovers this season. All-name team member Weston Steelhammer looks like a Sunday player, but the Falcons haven’t gotten many contributions from other players and injuries to a couple of key linebackers in Grant Ross and Jacob Onyechi have been problematic. This game got out of hand when these two teams played last season. Air Force was only up 21-14 at half, but they won 42-14 and had a 42:38 to 17:22 time of possession advantage. The Falcons had 458 rushing yards.
Fresno State Bulldogs:
How will the Bulldogs respond with a new head coach? It was pretty clear that Tim DeRuyter was in over his head with this rebuild and now offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau gets the chance to show what he can do. DeRuyter benefited from Pat Hill’s recruiting classes and was not much of head coach. Kiesau’s offense has not been good, averaging just 350 yards per game and 4.8 yards per play. He’s been preaching effort to his team this week and he should, at the very least, have them fired up to play. Effort will need to be the equalizer with this offense. Redshirt freshman quarterback Chason Virgil has barely completed more than half of his passes for just six yards per attempt and a 10/6 TD/INT ratio. The running game hasn’t provided any help with just 3.4 yards per carry. Jamire Jordan, KeeSean Johnson, and Aaron Peck have accounted for 119 of the 155 receptions and 1,549 of the 1,833 yards.
A bad offense will always expose a bad defense. Fresno State has given up 34 points per game this season and over 430 yards. The fact that they’ve allowed 267 rushing yards per game on 5.2 yards per carry is a major red flag heading into this game against an option offense. Former South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is at the helm here and he hasn’t had a ton of exposure to the triple option. That’s definitely worrisome, especially because the back seven for Fresno State is undermanned. That’s a big reason why Air Force took over last season’s game and why the same could happen here this week. The Bulldogs have played better o defense since allowing 145 points to Toledo, Tulsa, and UNLV in a three-week stretch, but they faced some one-dimensional offenses.
College Football Free Pick: Fresno State Bulldogs +14
This is a hard game to handicap. In some respects, it should be a “get right game” for the Falcons, but they have a look ahead to a visit to West Point next week for another big service academy matchup. They haven’t fared all that well away from home, with a win and cover at Utah State, but a loss at Wyoming and a neutral-site loss in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl to New Mexico. Fresno State wipes the slate clean with a new head coach and they get a team that isn’t playing very efficient football right now. That look-ahead is a big factor and if Fresno State can control the clock at all, they can hang in this game.
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