It's strength on strength at the Big House when Air Force's triple-option attack goes up against Michigan's vaunted front seven
While Jim Harbaugh was surely not pleased with the overall performance last week against Cincinnati, the game did provide plenty of teaching points for the young Wolverines moving forward throughout the regular season. Turnovers were again the story for another inconsistent offensive performance, but special teams found their way to get in on the act as well with multiple miscues. In the end, Michigan still won by double digits, but it was uninspiring to say the least.
Air Force had the rare Week 2 bye week, giving Michigan just one game of film to prep for the matchup on Saturday. In the opener, the Falcons steamrolled passed FCS member VMI 62-0, racking up 457 yards on the ground with seven rushing touchdowns — each of which by a different rusher.
The game plan should be simple for Michigan — stop the run. Though it can be anything but simple when playing a team like Air Force.
Air Force at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 16 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan -26
Three Things to Watch
1. No changes happening
Jim Harbaugh reiterated once again this week that there will be no changes at the quarterback position — Wilton Speight is the guy. On the surface the numbers didn’t look all that bad against Cincinnati, completing 59 percent of his passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. While Speight was able to avoid the dreaded interception that plagued him in Week 1, the senior quarterback was involved on a fumbled exchange on a reverse and was erratic with many of his passes throughout the day. Despite a growing number of fans clamoring for a change behind center, Harbaugh does not appear ready to go in another direction. That said, the leash for Speight will continue to get shorter with every uneven performance like the one against Cincinnati.
2. Fast start
Air Force was nearly perfect in its season opener against VMI, rushing for 457 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns, five of which coming in the first half alone. The passing game even got in on the act with junior quarterback Arion Worthman throwing for 172 yards and a pair of scores. While running the football is the staple of the Falcons’ triple-option attack, Worthman will need to be able to at least threaten the defense though the air to keep the Wolverines from stacking the box with eight or nine defenders.
3. Strength vs. strength
It is no secret that the Falcons will continue to try and run their triple-option attack even if it will be like trying to penetrate a brick wall. Through two games the Wolverines rank third in the country in stopping the run, allowing just 79 yards on 57 carries. Michigan has especially buckled down in the second half of both contests, allowing just 1.11 yards per carry. The winner of this matchup on Saturday will be the team who can win the battle in the trenches.
Air Force has two advantages heading into Saturday. One, the Falcons have much less on film for the Wolverines to study beforehand as they have played just one game thus far and the starters only played about a half of football. That and the extra week of rest should benefit the Falcons at least at the onset of the game. But there is no doubting this will be an uphill battle for Air Force at the Big House and will need several things to go in its favor to have a chance. Similar to last week, the score will be close at halftime before Michigan’s defense helps the Wolverines pull away for another double-digit victory.
Prediction: Michigan 37, Air Force 16
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.