It’s a prerequisite for the Armed Forces Bowl to have a service academy representative as long as they are eligible. Thus we get the streaking Air Force Falcons, winners of four straight and nine games on the year taking on the Big 12’s Baylor Bears on Thursday in Fort Worth. We typically think of Air Force as the master of the triple option running the ball down opponent’s throats. Oh, that hasn’t changed, but the Falcons put together one of their best seasons behind a stingy defense that allowed a total of 25 points during its current winning streak.
On Thursday, December 22, 2022, the Baylor Bears play the Air Force Falcons in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX. Kickoff time is set for 7:30 p.m. ET with television coverage on ESPN.
Armed Forces Bowl Odds
Air Force Falcons +4
Baylor Bears -4
The Bears have faded since hitting the board as a 6.5-point favorite. The spread has fallen to Baylor -4 with the betting public backing the streaking Falcons. Baylor enters the contest looking to end a three-game skid after closing the regular season with losses to nationally ranked Kansas State, TCU and Texas going 1-2 ATS. That’s a gauntlet that Air Force hasn’t seen during its Mountain West Conference schedule. Still, the Falcons dominated defensively allowing an average of 6.3 points during its current winning streak and 13.3 points for the season to rank third nationally. The UNDER is 7-3 in the Falcons last 10 games.
Air Force Falcons
Conference bias plays a role when Power 5 and G5 programs collide. That’s always a huge motivating factor for the underdogs, which the Falcons are in this game despite having a better overall record, the best running game in the FBS and a top defense. Wins over San Diego State, Colorado State and New Mexico just don’t carry the same weight as losses to nationally ranked programs. No worries, the Falcons will just continue what they’ve done all season, which is run and win. Brad Roberts is the key to offense with over 1,600 rushing yards on the season. He helps the Falcons average 335.3 rushing yards while scoring 15 times.
Another key for Air Force is to not fall behind by multiple scores. They simply don’t have the firepower to win a shootout and running the football on nearly every play consumes time. Haaziq Daniels has thrown just 76 passes and has two attempts in each of the past three games. The Falcons have scored 14 points or less in three of their last five games relying instead on a defense that’s conceded fewer than 200 yards in five of those games.
Getting the swagger back on offense isn’t going to be easy against one of the better defensive teams in the country. But knowing they aren’t playing a ranked foe should inspire the Bears to regain the form that fueled a three-game winning streak just prior to their skid. The Bears scored at least 35 points averaging nearly 40 points in wins over Kansas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. They even tallied 40 points in a loss to West Virginia right before the streak. However, over the last three games the Bears scored just under 20 points per game.
Blake Shapen will play a major role in how the offense fares against the stingy Falcons. Handed the starting gig after an impressive close to last season, Shapen started strong throwing 11 scoring passes and only three interceptions in his first six games. An injury in the Week 7 loss to West Virginia may have played a role in his decline. He threw just five touchdown passes with seven interceptions in the last six contests. The competition in the Big 12 is stronger so the Bears should feel confident in their chances. However, stopping the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense is critical to getting the ball in the hands of Shapen and the offense.
Air Force vs. Baylor Free Pick
Stepping out of the Big 12 after three straight setbacks to ranked teams has the Bears feeling good about ending their skid. However, one thing you can’t do against Air Force is get overconfident. The Falcons are disciplined, they don’t hurt themselves, and more importantly they play hard every down. Air Force frustrates opponents by running the ball and I can see Shapen and the Bears trying to do too much to respond. And the smothering defense will allow the Falcons to post the upset.
BookMaker Pick: Air Force +4
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