Three things to consider when Air Force visits Army at 9:30 a.m. Saturday (CBS) with a chance to clinch the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy:
1 - Too much fire?
You see it all the time, a team and coaching staff come out too amped up and it works against them. An over aggressive defender is faked out, a runner trying to extend the ball for an extra yard coughs up a fumble or a call comes in for one too many long pass attempt. Air Force so far this year, in key matchups with Boise State and Navy, avoided the pifalls of too much emotion and instead channeled it to its favor. That will need to happen again. "We always say you have to play with fire, but you can't let fire play with you," nose guard Troy Timmerman said.
2 - Force the Black Knights to throw
Like Air Force, few things hurt Army more than incomplete passes. In its three best games of the year - wins over Buffalo and Ball State and a three-point loss to Ball State - the Black Knights were a combined 12 of 17 in the passing game. In its other four games, all losses, the team was 26 of 55 - an average of 7.25 incomplete passes per game. Incomplete passes set up second and long and third and long, taking Army out of what it does best. Air Force can force this by stoutly defending the run or by opening a lead of more than one score, neither of which figures to be a small task.
3 - Repeat of Boise State
The last time Air Force played after an off week, the defense put together its most inspired game of the season in forcing seven turnovers in a 28-14 victory of Boise State. While it's unrealistic to expect seven turnovers against a team that rarely throws, it's likely that Air Force's defense will play with similar energy. The coaching staff allowed the team four days off from practice during an eight-day stretch during the open week, and players said they felt physically and mentally rejuvenated. Extra energy will come in handy everywhere, of course, but it will likely benefit the defense most of all.