Air Force vs Michigan State: Preview and prediction


Heading into Saturday afternoon’s nationally-televised Air Force vs Michigan State game, the Spartans and Falcons will both be playing for a perfect 3-0 start to the 2015 season and a solid chance to begin conference play with an unblemished record.

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Related: Air Force vs Michigan State: Getting to know the Falcons

If you don’t know this by now, the Spartans are going up against a team that is 12-3 since the start of the 2014 season, including a 10-win campaign a year ago — one year after a 10-loss season.

Air Force keeps getting better, as does Michigan State, so this contest will be a very fun one to watch even if you don’t know much about the Falcons.

Let’s take a look at the preview, and my prediction, for Saturday’s game.


Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back LJ Scott (3) runs the ball for a touchdown against Oregon Ducks defensive back Arrion Springs (1) during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force ranks second in the country in terms of rushing yards with about 411 per contest. The Spartans rank 14th in terms of rush yards allowed, giving up only a fraction over 70. This game will base strength against strength and the run game of both teams will decide the winner.

Michigan State has two talented freshmen running backs, Madre London and L.J. Scott, who are fully capable of putting up big numbers while the Falcons have four guys, including quarterback Nate Romine, who have rushed for over 100 yards.

Romine isn’t the best pure quarterback, just 7-for-18 on the year, but he has the ability to option and run with the ball, averaging about five yards per touch.

However, Romine will be out in this one as he went down with an injury last week, leaving the starting duties up to Karson Roberts. Jacobi Owens is the guy to really watch for in this offense as he finished with over 1,000 yards last year.

In the pass game, if the Falcons do throw, which may be very few times, Jalen Robinette is the receiver to watch. Connor Cook is obviously a Heisman candidate for MSU and Aaron Burbridge is turning into a Tony Lippett-type weapon for the senior quarterback. Besides Burbridge, Cook has a wealth of options to choose from.

Advantage: Michigan State


Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas (8) celebrates after a play during the fourth quarter against the Oregon Ducks at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans beat the Ducks 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Fortunately for the Spartans, the Falcons return just four starters to this side of the ball and the numbers look so solid to begin the season, ranking 13th in total yards allowed, because of the lack of competition for Air Force through two games.

However, the Falcons are allowing just over 242 yards of offense per game, which is solid, and rank 29th in rushing yards allowed — which will change after this one.

For Michigan State, the Spartans’ secondary will be very lightly-tested in the pass game, but may need to practice bringing down physical running backs in the open field if those guys break through the first two lines of defense.

The front-seven will likely be racking up tackles and trying to stuff the runners, but the deceptive offensive sets and options could have them uncomfortable all day long. Expect a big day from the three linebackers.

Advantage: Michigan State

Special Teams

Sep 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans place kicker Michael Geiger (4) kicks a field goal out of the hold of Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Matt Macksood (86) during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll keep this section short and sweet. The Falcons have already returned a punt for a touchdown this season as Garrett Brown took one back 75 yards in the opener. Michigan State should have practiced punt and kickoff coverage all week long, so it’ll be interesting to see if another return for a touchdown is in the works.

With L.J. Scott now back in the kick return game, I could see a return touchdown happening at some point this season.

Jake Hartbarger is a star in the punt game for the Spartans while Michael Geiger is an inconsistent place kicker. Geiger missed a 28-yarder last week and heard it from the home crowd.

Air Force’s Drew Oehrle has missed an extra point and a 50-plus yard field goal. He’s solid, but not completely perfect.

Advantage: Even

Prediction: Air Force 17, Michigan State 38