Everyone knows that Air Force likes to run the ball.
The Falcons, like their fellow service academies Navy and Army, have continued to play option football long after it had gone out of style in places like Texas and Nebraska.
Even as running attacks have come back into style in recent years after several decades of pass-happy attacks dominating college football, the service academies have more or less stayed true to form, with small and occasional deviations.
For the academies, the triple option is an equalizer, a chance for their undersized players to execute against stronger, faster and more talented players on their opponents' teams.
Of course, back in the heyday of the triple option, most teams had an opportunity to face the offense more than a few times each season.
It is almost unthinkable that Air Force would adopt any other offense, given this tradition. Of course, the Air Force triple option is not the triple option of yesteryear.
Air Force today throws far more than it did in previous years. Having a quarterback that can throw the ball is a crucial aspect of today's triple option, as are receivers that can catch as well as run block.
But Air Force's recent success is also related to its solid pass defense and opportunistic defense. Last season, the Falcons finished first in the nation in turnover margin at 1.69 per game.
The Falcons also finished last season at No. 17 in pass efficiency defense and No. 11 in total defense.
This season, the Falcon pass defense is as stout as ever, ranked No. 12 in the nation in pass efficiency defense and No. 14 in pass defense.
However, the Falcons' run defense has been suspect this season, and Air Force has not had as much success in turnovers.
Air Force has been giving up over 180 yards per game on the ground, with four teams rushing for more than 200 yards versus the Falcons, including its last three opponents.
Injuries have been taking a toll on Air Force, as it has had major injuries to its two top receivers, its fullback, and two linebackers. The Falcons, never especially deep, lack the depth to stop a solid rushing attack.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, the face a top-10 rushing attack Saturday when Air Force travels to Fort Worth.
TCU is averaging over 250 yards on the ground (as well as over 200 in the air) this season.
Ed Wesley has emerged as one of the top running backs in recent memory for TCU (averaging almost 100 yards per game). He is supported by Matthew Tucker (averaging over 50 yards per game) and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, whose running has been extremely successful over the last few years.
TCU's running attack is enhanced by TCU's best in the nation mark on fumbles lost with only one lost so far this season.
Of course, everyone is well aware of TCU's outstanding defense, which has yet to yield a touchdown in three conference games, and the Frogs are looking to finish the season at No. 1 in total defense in the nation once again (TCU is currently No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 2, in total defense, No. 2 in pass defense, No. 4 in pass-efficiency defense, No. 9 in rushing defense, and No. 16 in turnover margin).
TCU has been particularly amazing this season in that it is ranked No. 27 in sacks and No. 28 in tackles for a loss, even though TCU rarely blitzes. Senior DE Wayne Daniels, replacing first-round draft pick Jerry Hughes, has 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his first season starting.
TCU should be able to run all over Air Force, and TCU QB Andy Dalton may not have huge numbers passing. TCU will attack the Falcons at the weak point and exploit it.
In its last two games versus TCU, Air Force has gained 229 and 150 yards and has not scored more than 17 points.
In 2008, TCU blew out the Falcons at home 44-10. TCU has never lost to Air Force in Fort Worth, including a remarkable 35-35 Air Force loss in 1998, its only blemish that year for a team that finished ranked in the top 10.
So, expect TCU to run all over the Falcons. TCU will not look to embarrass the Falcons (that is just not something TCU does to service academies), but a 35-point win would not be out of line for TCU Gary Patterson, even if he wants to avoid "style points."
TCU 38, Air Force 6