Is Air Force OU’s toughest non-conference opponent?
A month ago no one would have suggested the Falcons would be the Sooners’ toughest non-conference test. But two weeks into the season you can make the case Air Force might be the best team OU plays before Texas.
Based on Las Vegas point spreads, Air Force won’t be the toughest. Last week Florida State was a 9-point underdog. This week the Falcons are 17-point underdogs. Who knows what the point spread will be next week after Cincinnati’s not-so-stellar performance Thursday night at North Carolina State?
But if you examine each team closely Air Force probably is better than OU’s other three non-league opponents. The Falcons are just outside the top 25. Florida State was ranked 17th last week but it’s obvious the Seminoles didn’t deserve to be ranked. Even if Air Force loses Saturday, if the Falcons are competitive, it shouldn’t hurt them much in the polls.
Cincinnati will be a good test simply because it’s on the road and the Bearcats have a quality quarterback. But if you base comparisons on if they played so-and-so at a neutral sight I’d probably take Air Force over Florida State and Cincinnati.
Air Force has won eight games each of the last three seasons. Last week’s rout of BYU, ending a long losing streak against the Cougars, was proof the Falcons are solid with no glaring weaknesses. What they lack in talent they make up with grit.
OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Air Force’s offense is as difficult to prepare for in one week as any offense he’s ran across during his 12 seasons in Norman.
But the Falcons’ offense goes beyond what scheme they run. They have talent. They lead the nation in rushing. Quarterback Tim Jefferson is the trigger man in the option scheme. Jefferson also keeps defenses honest. If a secondary falls asleep by playing the run play after play Jefferson will burn a defense by throwing a home-run pass.
Defense is where Air Force is vastly underrated. Their defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter left for Texas A&M. They returned only five defensive starters. But it’s a group that swarms to the ball and will hit you. OU has more talent but the Falcons will force the Sooners to earn every yard.
Led by Thomas Lott watch list nominee Anthony Wright, the Falcons’ 3-4 scheme has looked similar to last year’s defense that ranked 11th in the nation in total defense, 10th in scoring defense.
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