The 2012 Armed Forces Bowl will pin the Air Force Falcons (6-6) against the Rice Owls (6-6) in a Mountain West—Conference USA matchup.
Air Force will attack Rice with the second ranked rushing offense in the country, fueled by Troy Calhoun’s option-offense attack that averages 329 yards per game on the ground.
Head coach David Bailiff and the Rice Owls will counter that with a balanced offense that has averaged 220 yards passing and 201 yards rushing per game this year.
Get all the details of the matchup between Air Force and Rice with our complete Armed Forces Bowl preview.
Where: TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
When: December 29, 2012 with a 10:45 a.m. (CST) kickoff
Radio: ESPN Radio
Betting Line: Air Force-10 (via vegasinsider.com)
Air Force came into the year replacing eight starters on both sides of the ball, but no one was harder to replace than four-year starter Tim Jefferson at quarterback.
Senior quarterback Connor Dietz has played pretty well this year, leading Troy Calhoun’s Falcons to a 6-6 record, just one win away from matching last year’s disappointing 7-6 season.
The 2011 team had high expectations going into the season following its 9-3 campaign the year before.
The schedule, though, proved too tough for Air Force as it dropped three straight October games to Notre Dame, San Diego State and Boise State.
This year’s squad has played admirably despite only returning six starters. A bowl victory would help Calhoun and the Air Force Falcons get back on track for another big season next year.
After losing five of its first six games this season by an average of two touchdowns, Rice has stormed back to win five of its last six games, including four straight, to reach six victories and bowl eligibility.
Unfortunately for Rice, none of their last four victories came against teams that were very good.
The record of Rice’s opponents during their four-game winning streak is a gruesome 11-37 this year, so a victory over Air Force would validate an impressive turnaround for head coach David Bailiff and the Owls.
QB: Connor Dietz | Kale Pearson
RB: Wes Cobb | Mike DeWitt
RB: Cody Getz | Jon Lee
WR: Dontae Strickland or Ty MacArthur
WR: Chris Jordan or Drew Coleman
TE: Austin Briehl or Marcus Hendricks
OL: Jason Kons | Evan Kaufman
OL: Drew Kerber | David Lore
OC: Jordan Eason | David Jones
OL: David Lore | Moshood Adeniji
OL: Alex Huskisson | Jerry Henry
DL: Joseph Champaign | Riley Cannon
DL: Cody Miller | Nick DeJulio
DL: Alex Hansen | Nick Fitzgerald
LB: Alex Means | Joey Nichol
LB: Austin Niklas | Steven Sumpter
LB: James Chambers | Spencer Proctor
LB: Stephan Atrice | Jared Jones
DB: Chris Miller | Gavin McHenry
DB: Brian Lindsay | Justin DeCoud
DB: Christian Spears | Jamal Byrd
DB: Steffon Batts | Dexter Walker
PK: Parker Herrington | Briceton Cannada
P: David Baska | Zach Hoffmann
KR: Ty MacArthur | Chris Jordan
Injury Report (via usatoday.com)
QB: Taylor McHargue | Driphus Jackson
RB: Charles Ross | Turner Petersen
WR-Y: Luke Willson or Vance McDonald
WR-A: Sam McGuffie | Andre Gautreaux
WR-F: Donte Moore | Andre Gautreaux
WR-B: Jordan Taylor or Dennis Parks
LT: Jon Hodde | Ian Gray
LG: Nico Carlson | Matt Simonette
C: Nate Richards | Matt Simonette
RG: Andrew Reue | Bobby Janisch
RT: Caleb Williams | Matt Wofford
LE: Cody Bauer | Trevor Gillette
NT: Hosam Shahin | Stuart Moutanchaf
DT: Christian Covington | Jamael Thomas
RE: Jared Williams | Tanner Leland
SLB: Cameron Nwosu | Michael Kutzler
WLB: James Radcliffe | Kyle Prater
SS: Gabe Baker | Zach Espinosa
FS: Julius White | Garrett Fuhrman
KAT: Paul Porras | Garrett Fuhrman
LCB: Malcolm Hill | J.T. Blasingame
RCB: Phillip Gaines | Alex Francis
PK: Chris Boswell | James Farrimond
P: Taylor Cook | Chris Boswell
PR: Dennis Parks | Julius White
KOR: J.T. Blasingme | Donte Moore
Injury Report (via usatoday.com):
No players out
WR Ty MacArthur
It’s obvious that Air Force will try and run the ball with Dietz and its bevy of running backs, but MacArthur is a big threat at the wide receiver position.
The junior wideout from Newhall, California has hauled in 24 catches and two touchdowns this year while leading the team with 411 receiving yards. Teams that have crept up in run support have often been burned by MacArthur deep this year.
MacArthur is also fifth on the team in rushing with 419 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Air Force likes to attack a defense from every angle of the field in the running game, and MacArthur is a big reason why.
QB Taylor McHargue
Rice’s offense starts and stops with junior quarterback Taylor McHargue.
McHargue is averaging 234 total yards per game this year, accounting for nearly 56 percent of Rice’s total offense on the season. He can hurt a defense with both his arm and his legs as he has thrown for 11 touchdowns (against just five interceptions) to go along with 11 rushing touchdowns.
Run Defense vs. Run Offense
Both teams will need to step up against the run.
Rice has allowed opposing ball carriers to average over five yards per rush attempt throughout the course of the 2012 season.
Only 12 teams in all of college football are worse at getting opposing rushers on the ground, and against the No. 2 rushing offense in the nation, those aren’t comforting numbers.
Junior defensive end Tanner Leland, an all-conference selection this year, will need to have a huge game.
Air Force hasn’t done much better defending the run. The Falcons rank No. 97 in the country in rush defense, giving up an average of 198 yards per game on the ground.
The Owls have three players, including their quarterback, that have rushed for over 500 yards this year.
Air Force will win if they can avoid costly turnovers.
The Falcons are averaging a hair under three turnovers per game in their six losses this year. Putting the defense in a bad position against Rice’s balanced offensive attack would spell doom for Calhoun and the Falcons.
If they hold on to the ball, though, they have a very good chance of winning.
Rice will win if they can hit a few big plays against the Falcons.
In their last five victories, the Owls have five touchdowns of 30 yards or longer. The big plays aren’t just limited to the defense, though, as Gabe Baker returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown against Tulane and Jeremy Eddington returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score against UTEP.
Air Force 38, Rice 31
Air Force’s will rush for over 350 yards in a seven-point victory.