2016 Arizona Bowl Preview: Air Force vs South Alabama

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2016 Arizona Bowl Preview

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, Tucson, Arizona
Air Force Falcons (9-3) vs. South Alabama Jaguars (6-6)
Friday, December 30, 2:30 PM PT
Bowl Swag: Red, inflatable “big-lazy” couch, Selco watch, Ogio rucksack, Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats2 headphones, No Sweat Specialties socks.

::record scratch::

I’m sorry, but a red, inflatable “big-lazy” couch? This has to be the best bowl gift of all time. A Google search reveals that the “couch” is shaped like a giant pencil case or a canoe. It looks amazingly comfy and I want one right now. Ok, back to the 2016 Arizona Bowl preview.

THE TEAMS

Air Force Falcons

For the second time in three years, Air Force will have an opportunity to win a 10th game. Although they finished fourth in the Mountain division of the Mountain West, only one game separated them from the three way tie up top between Wyoming, Boise State, and New Mexico. Air Force had losses to two of the three.

This is the third consecutive bowl game for the Falcons who lost to California in the Armed Forces Bowl last year, but beat Western Michigan in the Potato Bowl the year before. Their overall bowl record is 11-13-1.

As is typical for a service academy, Air Force runs the triple option offense, which means that the vast majority of their offensive yards will come on the ground. In fact, Falcons quarterbacks have attempted just 140 total passes this season. Contrast this to a pass-happy team like the California Golden Bears, who attempted 621 passes in the same time frame. The Falcons boast four players with other 600 rushing yards.

Air Force ranks 38th overall in total defense, 15th in rushing defense and has 14 interceptions on the year. That said, they give up almost 16 yards per completion (statistics courtesy of the NCAA). A bright spot in this Falcons defense is senior safety Weston Steelhammer (deserving of All Name Team status), who led the team with 75 tackles and six interceptions this season. He was named to the All-Mountain West first-team for the third straight year, a first for an Air Force player.

South Alabama Jaguars

The Jaguars started the season with a bang by beating perennial SEC powerhouse, Mississippi State. Sure, the Bulldogs had a down year, but the thought of a “lowly” never-been-ranked Sun Belt team beating anyone in the mighty SEC West warms the cockles of my heart. After that, things went downhill for the Jaguars who needed to win their final game to reach bowl eligibility. It’s almost like they used up a season’s worth of luck in the first game and had nothing to pull from for the rest of the year. Four of their six losses came by a seven points or fewer.

Starting quarterback, Dallas Davis, has thrown for 2461 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Running back Xavier Johnson has improved as the season has gone on. He rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns against New Mexico State in the final game of the year.

The performance of South Alabama’s defense will dictate the outcome of this game. And they will need to “bring it” to slow down an Air Force offense that ranks 35th in the nation. Unfortunately, South Alabama ranks 98th in the country in stopping the run, so things are not looking bright for the Jaguars (statistics courtesy of the NCAA).

South Alabama became an FBS team in 2012 and this is their second bowl game. After losing to Bowling Green in the Camellia Bowl in 2014, they are still lusting after a postseason win.

PREDICTION

In predicting the outcome, I look to common opponents for insight. Both teams played and beat Georgia State this year. Characteristic of each team, Air Force won a high scoring affair 48-14, while South Alabama succeeded in a 13-10 defensive struggle.

All signs point to Air Force winning the Arizona Bowl. The Falcons’ triple option offense will simply run all over the Jaguars defense and the Jag’s offense will not be able to keep up. I predict Air Force winning 35-10.

Main Photo

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