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The Battle Of I-25, Air Force Takes On Colorado State

(Sports Network) - Air Force cracked the Top-25 poll for the first time since 2003 and now the Falcons will put their 25th-ranking on the line when they host the Colorado State Rams in a Mountain West Conference bout this Saturday afternoon at Falcon Stadium.

It has been a rough start to the season for the Rams, who have dropped four of their first five games. CSU scored 36 points in its lone win over Idaho, but in the four setbacks the Rams totaled a mere 19 points. Coach Steve Fairchild's gang lost all eight of their league games a season ago, and began conference action this year with a 27-0 loss to TCU this past weekend.

Air Force's 4-1 start to the 2010 campaign is the best opening to a season since the Falcons soared to a 5-0 ledger in 2003. Coach Troy Calhoun's crew started the year with easy wins over Northwestern State and BYU before falling to Oklahoma on the road. However, the Falcons rebounded with victories over Wyoming and Navy. The victory over the Midshipmen this past weekend was very important for coach Calhoun's bunch, as they snapped a seven-game losing skid against their service academy rival.

The Falcons, who hold a 28-19-1 edge over Colorado State in the all-time series, have dominated the Rams recently, winning five of the last six matchups, including four in a row.

The Rams are coming off an embarrassing performance against the fifth-ranked Horned Frogs, as Colorado State was shut out for the first time since losing to Wyoming 24-0 in October of 2006.

Nothing went right for the offense, which accumulated only eight first downs on a pitiful 161 total yards. The ground game was held to just 45 yards, but that is not surprising considering the team is currently last in the nation on the ground, rumbling for a meager 56.2 ypg.

Colorado State does not possess one main running back, and that has led coach Fairchild to open a competition in the backfield, hoping someone will step up and be the leader of this group.

"I've been disappointed at times all fall with certain things with them," said coach Fairchild. "I think we're better than we're playing right now. All we can do is look forward, work hard, and try to make some things happen."

The passing attack has been slightly better, thanks to the play of quarterback Pete Thomas. The freshman gunslinger has completed 68.4 percent of his throws and comes into this weekend with four touchdowns, but also has seven interceptions. Against TCU Thomas was pressured throughout the contest and finished with just 116 yards, while being sacked four times.

To make matters worse for Colorado State, the defense has played just as poorly as the offense, surrendering 33.4 ppg. Opponents have dominated this unit on the ground and through the air, showing there are multiple ways to score on the Rams.

TCU used its ground game to punish Colorado State this past weekend, as the Rams were pulverized for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 7.1 yards per attempt. Through five games the frontline has been gashed for 203.4 ypg and have surrendered eight rushing TDs.

It won't get any easier this Saturday, as the Falcons possess a devastating ground attack that is sure to cause coach Fairchild's defense plenty of problems.

The Falcons lean heavily on their running back, but also have a versatile quarterback in Tim Jefferson, who coach Fairchild knows his team needs to stop if Colorado State has any chance of winning.

"It makes him difficult to handle," said coach Fairchild. "He's a good quarterback. When they've had good players at that spot, that's when their offense steps up to the next level. You go back even in the 80s and 90s when Theyve had a special guy at that spot, and whatever the offense is, it takes a huge step forward."

As for Jefferson, he was outstanding in Air Force's victory this past weekend, as the quarterback rushed for 62 yards and scored the team's only two touchdowns. Jefferson also threw for 83 yards on 5-of-7 passing in an emotional win.

"All of us seniors had lost to Navy every year we'd been here, and everyone comes up to us asking if we're going to beat Navy this year," Jefferson said. "There was a lot riding on this game, and it means a lot to the team. Going out and winning for the first time is huge."

Jefferson, who has 10 touchdowns (seven rushing and three passing) did not accomplish the feat alone however, as Jared Tew and Asher Clark also had impressive performances. Tew, who is leading the team with 482 rushing yards, paced the team with 111 yards, while Clark (423 rushing yards) added 70 yards on 5.0 yards per attempt.

Navy's offense is similar to Air Force's, as both teams possess a lust for punishing opponents with the ground game. However, that might have played into the hands of this defense, which was prepared for Navy's attack.

Sure the defense allowed 209 rushing yards, but held the Midshipmen to a manageable 4.2 yards per attempt, and more importantly kept its rival out of the end zone.

On the year, Air Force is allowing 155.8 ypg on the ground, and that is a bit concerning, but overall this unit has been impressive and comes into this contest holding the opposition to a stingy 16.4 ppg.

Jordan Waiwaiole is one of the veteran players on this defense, and thus far the junior has been outstanding, racking up 40 tackles, to go along with two sacks and one interception.

Getting over Navy was a big hurdle for the Falcons, who can now focus on conference opponents until their date with Army in November. This matchup should be much easier for Air Force, which should run right through a very vulnerable Colorado State defense.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 38, Colorado State 10