Armed Forces Bowl 2012: Air Force vs. Rice TV Info, Predictions and More

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2012

Armed Forces Bowl 2012: Air Force vs. Rice TV Info, Predictions and More

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    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.

Game-Day Info

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    Where: TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

    When: December 29, 2012 with a 10:45 a.m. (CST) kickoff

    TV: ESPN

    Radio: ESPN Radio

    Betting Line: Air Force-10 (via vegasinsider.com)

Key Storylines

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    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.

Air Force Depth Chart and Injury Report

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    Offense

    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

    Defense:

    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

    Special Teams:

    PK: Parker Herrington | Briceton Cannada
    P: David Baska | Zach Hoffmann
    KR: Ty MacArthur | Chris Jordan

    Injury Report (via usatoday.com)

    Austin Hayes
    Josh Kusan
    Michael Husar
    Jay Fullam

Rice Depth Chart and Injury Report

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    Offense:

    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


    Defense:

    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

    Special Teams: 

    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

Air Force Player to Watch

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    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.

Rice Player to Watch

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    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.  

Key Matchups

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    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...

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    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...

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    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.

Prediction

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    Air Force 38, Rice 31

    Air Force’s will rush for over 350 yards in a seven-point victory.