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Air Force Falcons vs. Boise State Broncos Preview and Prediction

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The Mountain West Conference Mountain Division (that just rattles off the tongue, doesn’t it?) is up for grabs when Air Force faces Boise State on the blue turf on Friday night.

Boise State (7-3, 4-2 MW) is reeling right now after a shocking loss to New Mexico at home that snapped the Broncos’ 18-game winning streak at Albertsons Stadium.

Air Force (7-3, 5-1 MW) meanwhile is riding high into the wild blue yonder on a four-game winning streak, with last week’s 35-28 triumph at home against Utah State being the most impressive victory during this stretch.

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Air Force at Boise State

Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV: ESPN2

Spread: Boise State -12

Three Things to Watch

1. Revenge game for Boise State

Last season, the only loss Boise State suffered in Mountain West play was against Air Force in Colorado Springs.

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After that 28-14 loss to the Falcons, many around Bronco Nation were questioning the hire of head coach Bryan Harsin. Then after the loss to Air Force, the Broncos went on a tear, winning their next nine games, including a victory over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.

Air Force has always given the Broncos struggles since the two became conference foes in 2011. Two years ago, the Falcons jumped out to an early lead on the road before quarterback Joe Southwick set a MWC completion percentage record of 93.1 percent (27-for-29) en route to a 42-20 Boise State win.

With this Friday’s game being Senior Day for 20 Boise State players, I’d expect emotions to be running high, as those Broncos certainly don’t want to end their careers on the blue turf with another loss to the Cadets.

2. The Air Force passing attack?

Air Force is currently on a four-game winning streak and a large part of the Falcons’ success has come through the air. Ironic, isn’t it? Air Force, the air, okay never mind. But seriously, the Falcons have had success passing the football this season, and last week quarterback Karson Roberts posted 271 yards and a touchdown in the win over Utah State.

Wide receiver Jalen Robinette had a career day, as his 210 yards receiving put him third in the Air Force record books for most in a single game.

We all can expect the triple option attack to be a tall order for any opposing defense, but when the passing game is clicking for Air Force, the Falcons become a tough team to stop.

3. Restore dominance on the blue turf
The loss last week to New Mexico – a 30-point underdog – was one of the worst in the past 20 years for the Boise State program. For that loss to the Lobos to happen at home on the blue turf made it even tougher to swallow for the Broncos, who may be losing their mystique as one of the top Group of 5 programs.

Getting back on track with a win over a quality Air Force team is critical for the Broncos, who want to restore that dominance they’ve had for nearly two decades at home.

Final Analysis

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This is always an intriguing matchup between Boise State and Air Force. I expect a quality football game to be played, but don’t count on the Broncos coughing up the football four times again in this one like they did against New Mexico.

Freshman quarterback Brett Rypien is a star in the making, but their needs to be a more concerted effort to run the football and not rely on the passing game. Last week, the Broncos attempted 74 passes in the shocking home loss to the Lobos. Boise State should win at the point of attack against an undersized Air Force squad, and I’d expect the home team to come away with a statement victory to get back in the race to win the Mountain Division, and have a shot at playing in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game.

Prediction: Boise State 37, Air Force

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.