Editor's note: This post originally appeared on the MWC football analysis blog, and has been republished with permission by the author.

The Aggies open up against the Falcons this Saturday on the road in the MWC opener. It shouldn't matter where the game is played — the Aggies should come out a winner.

Here's a closer look at all the factors going into this week two matchup between the Utah State Aggies and Air Force Falcons.

Nuts and bolts

Game date: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013

Kickoff time: 1:30 p.m. MT

Stadium: Falcon Stadium, located near Colorado Springs, Colo.

Elevation of stadium: 6,621 feet

Elevation change for Utah State: Although Falcon Stadium has an elevation of more than 6,000 feet, Utah State will only be experiencing an elevation increase of 1,911 feet. Consequently, stadium elevation should have an insignificant effect on Utah State.

Travel distance for Utah State: Insignificant (less than 1,000 miles)

Time change for Utah State: None

Field surface: Artificial (FieldTurf)

Weather: Forecasted daytime high temperature is 87 degrees. Forecasted daytime high humidity is 46 percent. Isolated thunderstorms may delay or interrupt the game. There is a 30 percent chance of rain. The UV index will be very high.

Stadium noise: Moderate

Dual-threat quarterback

In Week 1, Air Force’s defense played well against an elite FCS dual-threat quarterback. Air Force’s defense held Colgate's Gavin McCarney to 143 passing yards on 14-for-35 passing and 35 rushing yards.

But McCarney is not Utah State's Chuckie Keeton. More importantly, McCarney was operating behind Colgate’s FCS offensive line, while Keeton will be operating behind Utah State’s experienced and powerful offensive line.

Aggies in the trenches

Each of Air Force’s defensive front seven are small for their position relative to FBS standards — especially the defensive linemen — but they are all intelligent, disciplined, conditioned, quick and agile. The Aggies should be very successful in run blocking between the tackles based on their superior size and strength.

Utah State will have a challenge in run blocking outside the tackles and in pass blocking, but Utah State’s offensive line is extremely experienced and should know how to block a faster opponent.

Aggie passing game

Air Force has a reliable passing defense. Most importantly, Air Force’s pass defenders are disciplined and rarely make coverage mistakes.

However, USU's Keeton is among the best quarterbacks in the nation. He is very accurate, going 31-for-40 in Week 1 vs. Utah, and is extremely difficult to sack. Keeton should have good individual passing statistics against Air Force, but nothing extraordinary.

Overall, Utah State’s passing offense should be effective against Air Force’s passing defense.

Aggie rushing game

Utah State’s offensive line should be able to clear wide running lanes between the tackles. Accordingly, Utah State should not waste a play trying to gain rushing yards outside the tackles.

Keeton may have difficulty gaining rushing yards against Air Force’s disciplined and fast defenders.

Air Force key injury
Sarah Chambers, U.S. Air Force Photo

Air Force starting quarterback Kale Pearson left the game against Colgate late in the second half due to a knee injury. Air Force backup quarterback Jaleel Awini was an effective replacement for the remainder of the game.

Falcons in the trenches
Sarah Chambers, US Air Force Photo

Air Force’s offensive linemen are small, but they are extremely skilled at using blocking techniques to neutralize bigger and stronger opponents.

Coaching is the key to winning the fight in the trenches against Air Force. Utah State’s coaches must teach their players how to counteract Air Force’s blocking techniques.

Utah State Defensive Line Coach Frank Maile has six years of coaching experience. Maile was promoted from a defensive graduate assistant in 2011. He has excelled in his limited experience as the defensive line coach and was a successful defensive lineman at Utah State from 2004 to 2007.

Air Force passing game
Liz Copan, U.S. Air Force Photo

Usually, Air Force’s offense attempts less than 10 passes in a game and sometimes less than five. In 2012, Air Force attempted zero pass attempts against Hawaii. In a few rare games, Air Force’s offense will attempt up to 20 passes. Air Force’s offense is essentially a one-dimensional option run offense.

Air Force rushing game
Mike Kaplan, U.S. Air Force Photo

Utah State has a good rushing defense that allowed 148 rushing yards against Utah. The Aggies should perform better against the smaller Air Force players if Utah State’s defense obeys the three rules of stopping an option offense:

Rule No. 1: Discipline

Rule No. 2: Discipline

Rule No. 3: Discipline

All option offenses are designed to exploit an opponent’s mental (assignment) and physical (tackling) mistakes. An option offense fails if the opponent does not make mistakes.

Last season, Air Force’s offense had significant problems with fumbles, averaging 1.6 per game.

Special teams
Sarah Chambers, U.S. Air Force Photo

Air Force often plays well against bigger and stronger opponents. Because this game should be competitive through all four quarters, special teams will be important.

Overall, both opponents have good special teams.

Decisive factors

1. The discipline of Utah State’s defense in assignments and tackling.

2. Size and strength advantage of Utah State’s offensive line on inside run.

3. Whether Air Force’s offense has fixed its 2012 fumble problem.


Editor's note: This post originally appeared on the MWC football analysis blog, and has been republished with permission by the author.