NCF Nation: 2011 Military Bowl 3 Keys

Military Bowl: Three Keys

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
2:30
PM ET
You saw the preview and prediction, now here are three keys for Air Force and Toledo in the Military Bowl on Wednesday:

Air Force (7-5)

1. Page-turner: Where's Eric Page? That's the question Air Force's secondary needs to be asking every snap. Stopping -- or at least slowing down -- the Toledo receiver has to be a top priority. As good as the Rockets are running the ball, they are just as efficient throwing to Page, who set a Toledo record with 112 catches this season -- which included a five-touchdown performance against Northern Illinois. Air Force doesn't give up a lot of yards in the air (162.7 per game); Page averages almost 10 catches and 94 yards per game. Something has to give.

2. Simple, tackle: One of the things that makes Air Force's secondary efficient is that its members tackle well and keep everything in front of them. The front seven is going to have to do the same against one of the best rushing teams in the country. In the season finale against Colorado State, Air Force gave up 321 rushing yards to a team that was in the bottom half nationally running the ball. Toledo will get its yards -- just as the Falcons will on offense -- so yards after contact for both teams will likely be the tipping point.

3. Lean on experience: Air Force has a lot of veterans with bowl-game experience. This is the fifth consecutive bowl game for the Falcons, who have won their past two -- which included a 14-7 victory over Georgia Tech in last year's Independence Bowl. Quarterback Tim Jefferson has amassed 28 wins in his career -- more than any other quarterback in Air Force history. It's that knowledge and leadership that could make the difference for the Falcons.

Toledo (8-4)

1. Discipline: Air Force is going to try to confuse Toledo with misdirection, counters and a wide variety of offensive formations. The Falcons will work the triple option from the shotgun and the pistol and put a variety of different players in motion and in the backfield. Knowing the option rules -- and actually adhering to them -- will be paramount. Defensive freelancing won't get it done. Only one team has held the Falcons to fewer than 200 yards this year (San Diego State, 195), but they have gone for at least 340 yards in half of their games, including a 595-yard (yes, 595) day against Tennessee State. Smart reads and defensive discipline should be Toledo's top priority.

2. Make a stand: Few teams in the nation have been hotter offensively over the past five games than Toledo -- which is averaging 52.8 points per game during that stretch. Here's the problem: the Rockets have also given up a ton of points -- 63 in consecutive games against Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. Yikes. The offense does its job, and does it well. Now the defense has to pick the offense up against an offensively efficient Air Force attack that averages 34.4 points per game and has put up 45 in each of its past two contests.

3. Win one for the new guy: Don't expect any drop-off in production with Tim Beckman's departure to become head coach at Illinois. Offensive coordinator-turned-head-coach Matt Campbell has been the brains behind Toledo's offensive resurgence of late. His quick hire ensures continuity in the program and you can bet he and his players will be excited to get his head-coaching career off with a bang.

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