Air Force vs. Toledo in the Military Bowl seems like one of the toughest bowl games to figure, and a former Colorado coach who will be broadcasting the game can’t pick a winner either.
Dan Hawkins will be calling the game for ESPN. He has watched film of both teams and thinks it’ll be one of the more even matchups in the bowl season. He probably wouldn’t pick a winner, considering he’s calling the game, but he doesn’t know who has the edge.
“I really don’t,” Hawkins said. “If I had to put my money down I’d have a hard time. I can’ make a case for both sides. I think it’s going to be fun.”
Hawkins did make a case for both sides, and here’s some of his pregame analysis:
The case for Air Force
- Hawkins pointed out that Toledo has a good run defense, but that matters little against Air Force’s unusual offense, which features the option. Toledo hasn’t faced an option team in years.
“Just because you can stop the conventional offense doesn’t mean you can stop the option,” Hawkins said.
He used the example of Boise State, which played pretty well on defense all year but gave up a lot of yards to Air Force.
“They moved it on offense now, and Boise is doggone good on defense,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said Air Force’s versatility on offense should be on full display.
“They’ve got a lot of buttons to push,” Hawkins said.
- Hawkins thought fan support could make a difference. Air Force thinks it can sell more than 12,500 tickets. The Falcons were on the verge of passing 10,000 tickets sold a couple days ago. Meanwhile, the Toledo Blade reported on Tuesday that the Rockets had sold 1,200 tickets of their 5,000-ticket allotment.
“I think emotion is a big deal,” Hawkins said. “Winning on the road is hard in college sports. Emotion is such a big component in all that. Will the crowd be enough to throw Toledo off balance? I don’t know. But it may be enough for Air Force to feel like they’re in friendly confines.”
- Hawkins thought Air Force’s defense is better than it gets credit for. He rattled off the first four games of Falcons’ October schedule – Navy, Notre Dame, San Diego State and Boise State – and said that was the reason they gave up so many points.
“I think their defense was not good because they were up against some good teams,” Hawkins said. “I don’t know if you can say they were bad.”
The case for Toledo
- In watching the Rockets on film, Hawkins simply saw a very good team. He thought they played well on offense and defense. Particularly on offense, he said the Rockets could pass the ball with either quarterback they use, and became a good running team by the end of the year.
“Nobody really stops them,” Hawkins said.
- A big issue for Toledo has been the coaching change since the regular season ended. Tim Beckman left to Illinois, and he was replaced by offensive coordinator Matt Campbell. How the Rockets handle that will be a big deal in the outcome of the game.
“Is that an emotional drain?” Hawkins said. “But Campbell has stayed so it might be the “We’re good without you” mantra.”
- Air Force had problems with ball security all year, while Toledo was good at avoiding turnovers. That’s a huge deal in every football game, and it could be a factor in the Military Bowl. When Hawkins saw Air Force on film, he thought that was one of the team’s biggest issues.
“The bugaboo for Air Force has been turnovers,” Hawkins said. “That will be critical.”
- Toledo should have a better chance to defend Air Force’s option given the extra weeks to prepare. Usually teams have just a few days to learn how to play against the Falcons.
“It think it helps Toledo,” Hawkins said. “Nobody likes to see it with three days of preparation. It’ll definitely help Toledo. How close they can replicate it in practice, who knows, but it is an advantage.”