Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Military Bowl: Toledo (8-4) vs. Air Force (7-5)
By Kevin Gemmell
Two prolific rushing offenses take center stage Wednesday at Washington's RFK Stadium for the Military Bowl - Presented by Northrop Grumman. Air Force enters the contest with the nation's No. 2 rushing attack, averaging 320 yards per game. Toledo isn't far behind, ranking 14th nationally with 221 yards per game. Both teams have high-scoring offenses and opportunistic defenses -- Toledo in particular, which ranks third in the country in turnover margin.
Who to watch: Air Force senior quarterback Tim Jefferson is a veteran starter who knows how to operate the Falcons' triple-option attack. His experience and knowledge of the system allows him to make smart reads -- be it on the end or the mid-line -- and with 12 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns, he can't be overlooked in either aspect of the game. He's completed almost 61 percent of his throws -- not great -- but good enough that if the Toledo defense doesn't respect him, he could beat the Rockets over the top.
What to watch: Toledo has used a two-quarterback system of Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens to keep teams off balance with its no-huddle offense. The veteran offensive line does a good job in protection and the multiple wide receiver formations will stretch out the Falcons' secondary. That allows the Rockets to open up their rushing attack, headlined by Adonis Thomas (963 yards, 11 touchdowns, 6.5 yards per carry). Toledo plays a pick-your-poison style of offense that can gobble up yards.
Why to watch: It's going to be a lot of fun to watch two contrasting styles of offense. All roads lead to the end zone -- Toledo just wants to get there quicker. The Falcons are happy to grind out long, methodical drives, but aren't afraid to take shots once the defense looks sufficiently lulled. True to its mascot, Toledo will be much more bang-bang with its attack -- but the Rockets also rank in the top 15 in time of possession so they know how to play the ball-control game, too. Don't expect either team's quarterback to spend much time on the ground behind the line of scrimmage -- both squads are tied for sixth nationally in sacks allowed.
Prediction: Toledo 42, Air Force 28. As someone who used to cover the Mountain West, it pains me to pick against Air Force. But Toledo has been so impressive over its past five games, averaging 52.8 points and 285.8 yards on the ground during that stretch. Conversely, Air Force gives up too many yards on the ground (227.8) and that could be a recipe for disaster against the Rockets.