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First Look: Air Force

September 11th, 2017 by Justin Potts

Michigan followed up its big win over Florida with lackluster showing against Cincinnati in the home opener on Saturday. The offense struggled to move the ball consistently, but the defense lived up to its billing, holding the Bearcats to just 200 total yards and scoring two touchdowns of its own.

Now, the Wolverines close out the non-conference portion of the schedule against an Air Force team that went 10-3 last season. Let’s take a look at how the team’s compare.

Air Force & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
62.0 1st 34.5 51st PPG 0.0 1st 15.5 31st
473 408 Rush Yds 55 79
473.0 1st 204.0 46th Rush/Gm 55.0 10th 39.5 3rd
7.1 4.7 Rush Avg 2.0 1.4
190 439 Pass Yds 40 313
190.0 98th 219.5 75th Pass/Gm 40.0 1st 156.5 34th
663 847 Total Off. 95 392
663.0 1st 423.5 63rd Total Off./Gm 95.0 1st 196.0 9th
N/A N/A 19.0 85th KR Avg 17.2 32nd 15.6 18th
4.5 81st 6.6 65th PR Avg -2.0 1st 2.0 41st
35:21 17th 32:20 35th Avg TOP 24:39 27:40
70% 2nd 33% 96th 3rd Down% 21% 15th 25% 24th
2-16 70th 6-30 104th Sacks-Yds 1-16 92nd 10-58 3rd
9 7 TDs 0 4
0-0 (–%) 6-8 (75%) FG-ATT 0-0 (–%) 1-3 (33%)
7-7 (100%) 1st 5-6 (83%) 74th Red Zone 0-0 (–%) 1st 2-2 (100%) 94th
7-7 (100%) 1-6 (17%)  RZ TD 0-0 (–%) 2-2 (100%)

Air Force had a Week 2 bye week after opening with a 62-0 win over VMI. The Falcons rushed for 457 yards on 6.8 yards per carry and totaled 647 yards. Their defense held VMI to just 95 total yards. It was a thorough domination, but VMI isn’t exactly a quality opponent. They went 3-8 last season and had the 96th-ranked total defense in FCS a year ago.

Even so, the armed forces teams always present a unique challenge with their spread option offenses that are different than what most other teams run. When Michigan hosted Air Force in 2012 it took a heroic effort from Denard Robinson to overcome 417 yards allowed.

In Air Force’s win over VMI, the Falcons had 16 different players with at least two carries. Their 437 rushing yards would rank 27th nationally through two weeks even though Air Force did that in just one game. Their rushing yards per game average is first by more than 50 yards over fellow armed force, Army. It was so good that even though they rank 98th in passing offense, they’re still first nationally in total offense. They’re also first in red zone scores with seven touchdowns in seven trips.

Defensively, they’re also first in several categories including scoring, pass defense, total defense, punt return defense, and red zone defense. They held VMI to just 95 total yards, a 21 percent third-down conversion, and no visits to the red zone. Air Force controlled the ball for so long that VMI ran just 47 plays.

Michigan will have its hands full with Air Force’s running game despite the fact that the Wolverine defense ranks third nationally against the run. But Don Brown will have Michigan’s defense ready. The question is, will the offense be able to move the ball and limit mistakes?