Military Bowl Preview: Air Force Falcons vs. Toledo Rockets

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIDecember 28, 2011

Military Bowl Preview: Air Force Falcons vs. Toledo Rockets

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    The Military Bowl will feature the lone military university playing in a bowl game this year, the Air Force Falcons, the winners of this year's Commander-in-Chief Trophy. They will play the Toledo Rockets.

    The game will be played on Dec. 28 at 4:30 p.m. ET in Washington, D.C at RFK Memorial Stadium.

    The game will be televised on ESPN.

Air Force Falcons

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    Record: 7-5 (3-4 MWC)

    Biggest win: at Navy, 35-34 (OT), Oct. 1

    Worst loss: vs Wyoming, 17-25, Nov. 12

    In a rough year for service academy football, the Air Force Falcons won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, with wins over both Army and Navy. In the Mountain West Conference, however, they finished with a losing record and also lost to Notre Dame.

    All of Air Force’s losses came against bowl-eligible teams, but all of their wins came against teams that were not bowl-eligible.

    As all three service academies do, the Air Force Falcons run a triple-option offense, running the football almost exclusively.

    They rank second nationally in rushing yards per game, good enough for 19th in total offense, even though they are 113th out of all 120 FBS teams in passing yards per game.

Toledo Rockets

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    Record: 8-4 (7-1 MAC)

    Biggest win: at Temple, 36-13, Oct. 1

    Worst loss: at Syracuse, 30-33 (OT), Sept. 24

    The Toledo Rockets made a big statement when they nearly upset Ohio State in their second game of the season, although the Buckeyes were expected to be a much better team than they were at the time. From then on, the Rockets went on to be one of the MAC’s top teams this season.

    The Rockets only lost one game in conference play to eventual conference champion Northern Illinois. Their biggest win came over Temple, who also finished the regular season 8-4.

    Toledo has one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, ranking eighth in both total offensive yards per game and points scored per game.

Players To Watch

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    Toledo WR Eric Page, Junior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 5

    Eric Page is the big playmaker on the Toledo Rockets offense.

    Page is a quick, speedy receiver who leads the Rockets with 112 receptions this season, which ranks third in the FBS.

    Page is also a very good kickoff and punt returner. He has a punt return touchdown this season, and his combined output from his duties ranks him sixth nationally in all-purpose yards gained.

    Page’s abilities are a huge reason why the Rockets’ offense ranks eighth nationally, and for their offense to be as prolific as usual, they will need him to be a major contributor once again.

    Air Force QB Tim Jefferson, Senior

    NFL Draft Grade: Undrafted

    While the Air Force Falcons run the ball much more often than they pass, senior quarterback Tim Jefferson is one of their most productive offensive players, who has had a very good career as their signal-caller.

    When Jefferson has passed this year, he has been effective; he has completed more than 60 percent of his passes, has a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (12 to six) and has thrown for 1,478 yards.

    Jefferson is also a major component of their rushing offense. He has run for 492 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

    In what should be the final major football game that Jefferson will ever play, the Falcons will be looking for him to make a big impact if they are to come away with a victory.

    Toledo CB Desmond Marrow, Senior

    NFL Draft Grade: Round 7 - Undrafted

    This game will be all about offense, but the best defensive player taking the field for this game is Toledo cornerback Desmond Marrow.

    Marrow is tied for fifth nationally with 17 passes defended. Marrow has great size for a cornerback at 6’2’’. He has very good ball skills, plays with physicality and is a solid tackler.

    Marrow is not a major NFL prospect, but he will be looking to make a big impact and an impression on the scouts, in his final collegiate game.

Comparing the Two Teams

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    Wins over bowl-eligible teams: Air Force 0, Toledo 3

    Losses over non-bowl-eligible teams: Air Force 0, Toledo 1

    Air Force’s rushing offense: Second in nation, 320.3 yards per game

    Toledo’s rushing defense: 25th in nation, 123.2 yards allowed per game

    Toledo’s total offense: Eighth in nation, 493.2 yards per game

    Air Force’s total defense: 69th in nation, 390.4 yards allowed per game

Prediction Analysis

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    Both of these teams have offenses ranking within the nation’s top 20 teams, so this should game should be full of offensive production.

    The Toledo Rockets have a more balanced offense, presenting both passing and rushing firepower, whereas the Air Force offense is very one-dimensional. Additionally, while the Rockets have certainly had their share of troubles defensively this year, those have mostly come on pass defense, with their 25th-ranked rushing defense doing an effective job of holding opponents in check.

    Of course, this game is known for featuring a service academy, and service academies are always motivated to play in bowl games, with the senior players knowing that this is their final football game before they focus on their five-year military service commitment. Therefore, I expect Air Force’s motivation factor to play a big role in this outcome.

    The Toledo Rockets have the better all-around team, and on paper, they should win this game. However, in a close, high-scoring affair, I think the Falcons will want to be at this game more than the Rockets will and come away with a victory.

    Final Score Prediction: Air Force 34, Toledo 31


    Thanks for reading!

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