Nevada (6-2) at Air Force (4-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 26, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Falcon Stadium (46,692) -- United States Air Force Academy, Colorado. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Nevada 2-2, Air Force 3-1. Away Record: Nevada 4-0, Air Force 1-2. Neutral Record: Nevada 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Conference Record: Nevada 3-1, Air Force 3-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Meeting for the first time ever on the football field, the Air Force Falcons and the Nevada Wolf Pack mix it up in Mountain West Conference action on Friday night in Colorado.
Both teams are tied for second place in the MWC standings with Fresno State and San Diego State at 3-1, but overall the Wolf Pack is still considered one of the better squads in the league. However, last week Nevada let its guard down after building a double-digit, second-half lead against the Aztecs at home and ended up losing in overtime, 39-38.
Playing in their second OT game in the last three weeks, the Pack saw a five- game win streak come to an end, although they are still 6-2 overall and in line for a postseason appearance yet again.
As for the Falcons, they too have had some hard-luck setbacks already in 2012, losing to Michigan on the road by just six points, falling to Navy in overtime and also becoming the only victim versus UNLV this season. However, last weekend the team survived against an aggressive New Mexico running attack to log a 28-23 win, the second in a row and the third in the last four outings for the Academy.
Against New Mexico, the Air Force run defense was more than put to the test as not only did the Lobos run for more than 400 yards, running back Kasey Carrier also set a school and conference record with 338 yards on 39 attempts. Now ranked ninth in the conference and 108th in the country with 222.0 ypg allowed on the ground, the Falcons have some major concerns in that department moving forward.
Adding insult to injury, while the defense was being shredded by Carrier and the Lobos, the Falcons were dealing with the loss of Cody Getz who entered the week ranked second in the nation in rushing. On the first offensive snap for Air Force, Getz appeared to aggravate a sprained left ankle and was taken out. In addition to Getz going down, quarterback Connor Dietz is now listed as probable for this week's outing with an ankle injury of his own.
Luckily for the Falcons, Ty MacArthur and Wes Cobb answered the bell, combining for 176 rushing yards on 24 attempts, the latter also scoring a trio of touchdown to help get the team into the win column.
Helping out on the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Alex Means registered 10 tackles, one sack and an interception return of 65 yards for a touchdown as he earned MWC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, disrupting plays in an opponent's backfield is not something that comes naturally by any means, seeing as how the team ranks 115th in the country with just 4.14 tackles for loss per game and 118th in sacks (0.71 per outing).
The inability of Air Force to get after opposing quarterbacks should be an open invitation for Nevada's Cody Fajardo to unleash his offensive prowess on Friday night. Fajardo did all he could to keep the Pack ahead of San Diego State last weekend by completing 29-of-40 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 66 yards and a score on the ground, but it simply wasn't meant to be.
One of the more exciting signal-callers in the nation who can torch opponents both with his arm and his legs, Fajardo has certainly benefited from having Stefphon Jefferson lining up behind him after the running back picked up another 108 yards and a score on 32 rushing attempts versus the Aztecs. Brandon Wimberly also played a key role in Nevada's shot at six in a row as he caught 10 balls for 132 yards and two scores, but really this is an offense that is predicated on Jefferson and Fajardo.
Jefferson, who scored an astounding six rushing touchdowns, seven overall, against Hawaii earlier this season, continues to lead the entire nation in rushing with 156.0 ypg, even though two of his last three outings have not lived up to the lofty standards he has already set for himself. He and Fajardo have the offense cranking out 541.1 ypg to rank sixth in the nation and their 40.6 ppg is good enough for first in the league and 16th in the country as well.
Like the Falcons, Nevada has had some trouble with pressuring teams at the line of scrimmage, coming up with just 4.5 TFLs per game to rank 109th, but when the offense operates as well as it does for head coach Chris Ault, you can somewhat accept an area or two where you might need some improvement.
Pitting the Pistol Offense against the repetitive pounding of the Air Force running game just doesn't seem fair. Expect the Pack to strike hard and fast, en route to a double-digit road win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 37, Air Force 21
10/24 10:43:26 ET