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Air Force vs. Wyoming Prediction: Divisional Foes Face Off in Mountain West Play on Friday Night

Falcons aim to snap three-game road losing streak to the Cowboys.

One day soon, Troy Calhoun may be calling plays for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Yes, that rumor mill is grinding in the college football ranks.

But the potentially in-demand head coach has calls to make for his current team these days.

Run left, run right … run up the gut. Run, run, run …

It's what the Air Force Falcons do so well. And perhaps better than ever in 2022.

"Big, big week opening conference play," said his Wyoming counterpart Craig Bohl, whose Cowboys kick off the Mountain West season against run-happy Calhoun and Co. "My assessment is this is the best Air Force team I've seen in my nine years since I've been the Cowboy football coach."

The Cowboys — a 2-1 team, coming off Week 2's 33-10 home-field win over FCS Northern Colorado — will find out first-hand just how good this year's cast of Falcons is come Friday night at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 3

But Bohl's bunch is no pushover either, says Calhoun.

"They provide an immense amount of challenges," Calhoun told reporters. "They're really really good size up front. What they've been able to do — and certainly it's a high-quality program — is add some key transfers, and they've been able to change their team in a really, really good way."

Is it enough to — once again — stop the 2-0 Falcons, who are riding high from last week's 41-10 home win over the Colorado Buffaloes? They've managed to do it before, with three straight wins in head-to-heads at War Memorial.

Air Force at Wyoming

Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. ET
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When Air Force Has the Ball

We'll say it again … Air Force will run, run, run.

Sounds easy to stop when you know it's coming, but everybody knows the triple option is no easy target, especially when the lead back in the attack is senior Brad Roberts.

The Falcons fullback knows how to run the rock. Against Colorado, he went off for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

"I'm trying to make (fullback) hip again," Roberts, a 1,356-yard rusher last year, told reporters after the Week 2 victory. "I love being a fullback, especially the way we run our fullbacks in this offense. It's awesome."

He's got 288 so far on the season, which tops the conference and is fifth most in the nation, and only Illinois star Chase Brown has more yards per game — 168 to Roberts' 144.

Back in Week 0, the Cowboys got a big dose of Brown, who rolled up 156 yards rushing and three scores, so they've seen this movie — and got rocked — before. For this challenge, the Wyoming defense is hoping confidence earned from last week's performance — when it allowed just 147 yards behind 17 combined tackles and one sack apiece from sophomore linebackers Easton Gibbs and Shae Suiaunoa — will help slow down Roberts.

"Numbers don't lie," said Bohl, whose Cowboys allowed an average of 500 yards against in their first two games of the season. "We've been grinding. Our defensive staff has been in there a lot. (But) we feel good about our plan. It's going to come down to our players stopping it."

Air Force has more than just Roberts in the attack, as evidenced by the nine different ball carriers — including senior QB Haaziq Daniels — that it featured in Week 2.

All totaled, Roberts, Daniels, and Co. lead the FBS in rushing, averaging 508.5 yards per game. The next best on that list is the 302.0 racked up by Minnesota, making the Falcons push a monster one.

When Wyoming Has the Ball

A balanced attack seems to be more the focus when the Cowboys' offense takes the field. Against Northern Colorado, it put up 149 rushing yards against 144 through the air.

OK, so they're not the most eye-popping stats, especially against an FCS enemy. But the balance is good news for a lineup that's quite different from 2021 and looking to improve from last year's misadventures.

It just might take a while to come together.

Junior running back Titus Swen, however, has got it going early. He's ground out 214 yards in three games, including 76 yards and all three Wyoming TDs on 15 carries last week.

The only other guy with points for the Cowboys in that game was sophomore kicker John Hoyland, who booted all three extra points and went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts — highlighted by a career-long 55-yarder — to pull in the conference special-teams star-of-the-week award. The Mountain West defensive honor, by the way, went to teammate Suiaunoa.

Hoyland's 10-for-11 accuracy — including a pair of clutch overtime kicks in the Week 1 win over Tulsa — makes the kicking game dependable when the offense gets into scoring range, so that's another early boost of confidence for the Cowboys attack.

The jury might still be out on new QB Andrew Peasley, who's replaced last year's duo of Sean Chambers and Levi Williams. The junior Peasley, who can run the ball, went 19-of-30 in Week 2. He's improved from a rough opener against Illinois but faces another tough test in the Falcons, which stuffed the Buffaloes last week.

"I thought our defense really made some gigantic, sudden-change stops that were invaluable," said Calhoun of a unit that surrendered only 162 yards to Colorado and forced three turnovers. Senior defensive end Christopher Herrera and junior linebacker Alec Mock each recovered fumbles, while junior defensive back Camby Goff picked off a pass.

Final Analysis

Calhoun remained calm in the face of queries about the Nebraska coaching vacancy.

"If we aren't full tilt with our own guys, we aren't fair to our own guys," he told reporters Tuesday.

So he's focused — for now — on his own troops, and he's got a good thing going with Air Force. The program has won six consecutive games dating back to last season, making it the third-longest active winning run in the country.

To reach seven straight, however, the Falcons face a Cowboys team that, indeed, has their number recently in Laramie. In fact, Bohl is 4-3 against Air Force during his tenure.

And there will be no counting out this edition of the Pokes, who may be a work-in-progress with such a revamped lineup but are 2-0 early on at home.

"There have been some really good games (between these teams), as this one will be, too," added Calhoun. "We're going to have to scratch and claw and over-achieve. This isn't someone we match up real well against."

But Calhoun's crew is too good not to get it done.

Prediction: Air Force 24, Wyoming 13

Podcast: Week 3 Predictions and Preview + Betting Tips and Picks Against the Spread

– Written by Todd Saelhof, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports editor/writer for Postmedia in Canada. Follow him on @ToddSaelhofPM at #CollegeFootballFrenzy.

*Price as of publication.