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Air Force at Navy: Subplots we'll watch on Saturday

October 6, 2017 Updated: October 6, 2017 at 3:56 pm
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photo - Navy slotback Dishan Romine nearly scores a touch down during the Air Force Falcons and Navy Midshipmen football game at Falcon Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Stacie Scott/The Gazette via AP)
Navy slotback Dishan Romine nearly scores a touch down during the Air Force Falcons and Navy Midshipmen football game at Falcon Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Stacie Scott/The Gazette via AP) 

Trends, keys and storylines we'll track as Air Force visits Navy for a 1:30 p.m. contest Saturday on CBS Sports Network.

Will history repeat itself?

Last year, Air Force lost three in a row and was in danger of dropping a fourth in a road game when a second-half switch at quarterback in an October road game spearheaded a comeback victory and turned into a six-game winning streak. If the Falcons – who have again lost three straight – struggle early offensively Saturday, don’t be stunned to see a switch to backup quarterback Nate Romine. Such a switch wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent move, but considering Romine’s past success against Navy (he threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns in a victory last year) and that he would come in fresh, as opposed to starter Arion Worthman (82 carries in the past three games).

Can Air Force control the ground again?

Air Force held Navy to 57 rushing yards on 38 attempts last year – its lowest output in 10 years under coach Ken Niumatalolo. If it seems unlikely that Air Force is capable of such a defensive effort this season against the nation’s top-ranked rushing attack (400.0 ypg) because it just gave up 363 rushing yards to New Mexico, it needs to be understood that there is no correlation between the Falcons slowing the Lobos and Midshipmen. Last year the Falcons gave up 373 yards to New Mexico just 14 days after stymieing Navy. In the three years prior to that, Navy ran for an average of 265 yards against the Falcons while the Lobos posted 398.

Which direction will the season tip?

If Air Force loses Saturday it will drop to 1-4, see its losing skid increase to four in a row, find itself out of the running to outright win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, become something of a long shot to reach bowl eligibility and face a long flight home after losing on a key rival’s field. If it wins, however, it will be in excellent position to win the trophy, would have escaped a four-game gantlet with one very key victory, could roll to bowl eligibility without another victory away from Falcon Stadium and will enter a relatively easy two-week portion of its schedule with a chance to move back above .500. So much of this season’s outlook hinges on Saturday’s result.

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