Mountain West Championship Game: Air Force vs. San Diego State Prediction, Preview

    Mountain West Championship Game: Air Force vs. San Diego State prediction and preview. The Falcons and Aztecs battle in San Diego for the conference title.

    November 30, 2015


    It’s the third Mountain West Championship Game with Fresno State winning the inaugural game, Boise State willing last year, and now there are two first-timers. San Diego State (9-3) has turned it on over the second half of the season to win the West, while Air Force (8-4) has somewhat quietly come up with a nice season taking the Mountain title. Check out the Mountain West Championship prediction and game preview.

    Mountain West Championship Game Preview

    Broadcast

    Date: Saturday, December 5
    Game Time: 7:30 pm
    Venue: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA

    Network: ESPN2

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    Why You Need To Care

    Air Force didn’t seem like it was in for a special year after starting out the season a pedestrian 3-3. The Falcons lost at Michigan State, but losses to Navy and Colorado State seemed like a bit of a problem. And then everything just started to work with the ground game kicking in and the defense turning into a rock. However, a good winning streak was partly due to the schedule lightning up, but then came the key two-game stretch in mid-November, beating Utah State and win shocking Boise State on the road to earn the Mountain title. New Mexico went off last week in a 47-35 win, but the Falcons didn’t need the game.

    San Diego State did what San Diego State always seems to do. It started out slowly with a rough 1-3 September – with an overtime loss at home to South Alabama making this season seem like it was going into the tank before it could begin. But the defense was fantastic, the running game worked, and the team overcame a miserable passing game to reel off eight straight wins including blowouts over Colorado State and Utah State to roll to the West title. How good has the defense been? SDSU has won each of the last eight games by 14 points or more with the D only allowing more than 14 points one – a 41-17 win over CSU.

    Why Air Force Will Win

    The run defense got run over by New Mexico last week – allowing 377 yards and six touchdowns – but before that it was terrific at attacking and coming up with third down stops. The linebackers don’t miss stops, there are plenty of plays behind the line, and the D knows how to get off the field.

    Offensively, the Falcons are able to grind out drives and control the clock and the tempo, coming up with 200 rushing yards or more in every game but one – the win over Army. When this thing gets into a groove – like it did against Boise State and Utah State, with 300 yards or more in four in five games before the New Mexico debacle – it’s hard to stop and hard to simulate in practices. SDSU’s defense might be excellent, but it hasn’t seen anything like this offense.

    Why San Diego State Will Win

    Yeah, the Aztecs haven’t seen an offense like Air Force’s, but the defensive front seven has been special. The D has allowed only two teams to come up with more than 100 rushing yards in the last nine games – with Colorado State topping out at just 163 yards. Helped out by a dominant pass rush over the last few games, the Aztecs aren’t allowing a thing allowing 17 points or fewer in all nine wins, including games against some of the league’s better teams.

    Yeah, SDSU offense has been as effective as any in the country on the ground, coming up with 200 yards or more in every game on the current eight-game winning streak, but the passing game has turned things around, too. It’s not a high-octane air attack, but it turned extremely effective over the second half of the year. After throwing three interceptions in the first two games, the passing game hasn’t given the ball away since. Rely on the defense, the ground game, and just hit the easy throws. The team doesn’t make the mistakes Air Force will need to capitalize on.

    Player Who Matters

    One of the league’s most productive players over the last three seasons, San Diego State RB Donnell Pumphrey now gets his shot to be the lead guy on a title-winning team. On a streak of eight straight 100-yard games, he’s been unstoppable at times after a rough first month of the season. Once he got into Mountain West play, he turned it up a few notches. With 12 100-yard efforts in a row in Mountain West play, and 14 in the last 15, this should be his moment.

    Air Force spreads the wealth around a bit, but to keep Pumphrey off the field, and to control the game early on, QB Karson Roberts has to keep the mistakes to a bare minimum. He doesn’t throw often, but he’s accurate, can hit the downfield play, and he knows how to take advantage of single-coverage. As good as he’s been, he’s on a disturbing run with three interceptions in each of the last two games after going the previous four games without a pick. Air Force has to win the turnover battle, and Roberts has to be nearly perfect.

    What’s Going To Happen?

    Air Force has a way of making good defenses look silly if they can’t hit the curveball early on, but the Aztec linebackers are too disciplined and too good to let Roberts and the option attack get loose. These are two fantastic ground games, too terrific run defenses, and two sound teams, but the SDSU defense will be too strong.

    Mountain West Championship Prediction

    Final Score: San Diego State 27, Air Force 17, Line: San Diego State -4.5, o/u: 50

    Must See Rating: 5: The Big Short – 1: CMA Country Christmas … 4

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