Air Force Falcons (4-3 SU, 3-4 ATS) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (1-7 SU, 4-3 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date/Time: Friday, October 28, 2016 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: AF -13.5/FRES +13.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5
The Air Force Falcons face the Fresno State Bulldogs on Friday in action from northern California. This matchup lends itself to a wide array of possible conclusions. You have a pair of struggling Mountain West teams looking to get their seasons on the right track. You also have a team favored by nearly two touchdowns in the Falcons who have lost three games in a row and seem rudderless at this point. On Saturday, they lost at home in overtime to Hawaii, 34-27. Fresno State, meanwhile, is winless other than a victory over FCS school Sacramento State. If looking for the silver lining, theyve covered their last three spreads, but its been slim pickings for the Bulldogs in 2016.
Solid performers at the betting windows, the Bulldogs have given it a go in a few instances, making Tulsa have to go to OT to beat them, putting Nevada to the test, making the Aztecs have to grind some, and with a somewhat-gritty cover against Utah State last week. All in all, however, the Bulldogs are a team heading in the wrong direction. Coach Tim DeRuyter looked to have them on the right track with two promising seasons, before coming up snake-eyes the past two seasons and really struggling this season. He was relieved of his duties following their 1-7 start. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will be the interim head coach for at least the remainder of the season.
The problems for the Bulldogs are almost too numerous to name. They are 124th in rushing defense, with them getting lit up to the tune of 267 yards per game. Their number-seven passing defense does reflect a good group, but one that is lightly tested with the front being so porous. Theyre giving up a ton on the ground, though the point totals theyve been allowing have gone down in the past several weeks. Make no mistake, however, even at home this D can be readily exploitable for an offense that can run the ball like Air Force can.
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The offense is averaging just over 20 points a game and have only scored 23 in their last two. They can barely make a dent on the ground, though Dontel James can be useful in spots. QB Chason Vigil does his best and isnt short on effort, but he struggles with a thin cast of playmakers. Through the air, they rely on a three-pronged attack of Aaron Peck (questionable), KeeSean Johnson, and Jamire Jordan. Its the best part of the offense and they look for some success against an Air Force defense that sometimes struggles in that area. Another possible source of daylight in the darkness of a 1-7 season is that sometimes teams see a little upsurge on the heels of a coaching change and with Kiesau being an offensively-minded coach, maybe the Bulldogs will have a little more pep in their step this week.
Air Force has basically squandered a good start with three straight losses. They havent just failed to cover the spread in their last three games; theyve missed the spread by a combined 66 points. Now here they are again as double-digit favorites against another supposedly-inferior team and its hard to pull the trigger again. As 17-point favorites at home against Hawaii on Saturday, they lost by 7 in overtime.
As usual, the Air Force run-game was in good shape, but the lack of any aerial attack is really starting to hurt this team. There were some good signs earlier in the season with Jalen Robinette and Timothy McVey creating some useful production. But QB Nate Romines last game underlined the lack of a passing game, as he was 1-for-10 passing with 20 yards and a pick. They have a deep cast of backs and are the 5th-ranked rushing offense in the country, but its obviously not enough as they are underperforming on offense to an alarming degree at this point.
Injuries and inconsistent play have undermined what looked like a pretty decent Air Force team earlier in the season. The front is a pretty lively group and actually quite adept in containing the run, but aerially, they have been put to the test in some spots and this could be another one against the Bulldogs. Against Wyoming, New Mexico, and Hawaii, this group seemed off the mark and looks to be a group in decline unless they can get it turned around.
For a team that has kept it close to home this season, Air Force could be tested coming into Fresno on the short week. Theyre a team that seems a bit sideways and asking them to cover a big number this week after they fell on their face the last three games is a big ask. But teams like Fresno St. dont can their coaches in the middle of a season with years left on their deals because things are going well. Still, being at home against a struggling team with a lot of points and a potential mini-spurt with a new face at the top could be enough. I like the Bulldogs.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Fresno State Bulldogs plus 13.5 points.