Hunting Falcons with the Natives.
As you dig deeper into the underbelly of college football to find writers for mid-major schools, it can be relatively difficult. While there is no dedicated Air Force blog out there, there is however, a dedicated Mountain West site. SBN's Jeremy Mauss is a contributor for the Mountain West Connection and SB Nation Denver as well as a contributor for the SBN college football mothership. We contacted Jeremy to discuss Air Force Academy football. Our discussion is below:
FTRS: With Utah, TCU, and BYU leaving the Mountain West very soon, what's the mental state of the conference? Is the phrase, "If you can't beat ‘em, join' ‘em," appropriate in these situations?
MWC: Your phrase fits perfectly with TCU and Utah, while BYU left because they wanted more exposure and because of broken promises from Comcast about rebroadcasting games. They all left for more money, better exposure and in TCU and Utah's case easier access to the BCS by not having to be perfect. The teams that are not moving up are bitter to a point because a Mountain West with BYU, Boise State, TCU and Utah would rival nearly any league outside of the SEC. A BCS berth most likely would have come way of the Mountain West, but to use Utah as an example they will get at least eight times the money by being in the Pac-12. The Mountain West television deal is not good unless you have DirecTv and it pays just user two million a year. The real bitterness from the others is with BYU, because the Cougars feel they are better then the rest of the league and went behind the league's back to secure a side deal with the WAC for non-football sports while going independent.
The replacements they brought in with Hawaii, Fresno State and Nevada are a good add and will bring in some much needed depth to the league, but none of those teams have the recent success on the field as what they lost. Overall, the league is felling ok about themselves partly because San Diego State is on the rise and the league will have five above average teams in Nevada, Hawai'i, San Diego State, Fresno State, and Air Force then the one elite team in Boise State. The league is still the seventh best conference, but they are not as close to the Big East or ACC as they have been over the past few years.
FTRS: The Air Force Falcons went 5-3 in conference with close losses to Utah, TCU, and San Diego State while finishing 3rd overall within the Mountain West. Is this about how one should expect Air Force to perform on a yearly basis?
MWC: I think so and maybe slightly better on occasion, they are a tough team to prepare for since they run the triple option just like Georgia Tech and that can neutralize much better teams who have to prepare once a year for this team. The Falcons also were on the verge beating Big 12 champion Oklahoma if it were not for a fumble deep in Oklahoma territory. With the new league forming in 2011 and 2012 Air Force will probably be a team that finishes in the top two or three consistently and occasionally winning the league if things fall their way.
See more of the Q&A after The Jump!
FTRS: Pretend I am a villainous BCS Bowl exec making $500,000 a year from my not-for-profit Super Duper Happy Go Lucky Bowl. I revile the vitriol from the non-AQ's because I feel like the BCS is fair. My argument: In the last 5 postseasons, the MWC has received 12 bids to March Madness out of 320 total bids and 3 bids out of 50 possible BCS bowl bids. This equates to 4% and 6% of the total bids respectively. The BCS system has allocated 2% more of its total bids to teams from the MWC than March Madness. How is this system still unfair for the MWC?
MWC: The reason I feel it is unfair to the non-BCS leagues is that in particular the Mountain West -- over the past few years -- is at worst on par with the Big East and very close to the ACC both who receive automatic bids. An unranked UConn goes 8-4 and wins an atrocious Big East and gets rewarded by going to the Fiesta Bowl. More worthy teams were left out such as Michigan State, LSU and Boise State. I know the rule of only two teams per league, but having a team that bad in the BCS is ridiculous. This is a one off for that bad of a team to get in, but the point is that say Boise State went unbeaten along side TCU there could have been the real possibility of the lower ranked team being left out because the BCS only has to pick one non-BCS team if they qualify automatically. Looking at the four year cycle that the so-called experts use to back up the Big East's bid is flawed, because looking at the BCS numbers for this current cycle the ACC would need an exemption to retain their automatic bid (assuming the numbers stay relatively the same). However, Bill Hancock came out and said since the ACC has a contract that they will continue to receive their auto-bid regardless of how the four year cycle ends up. The Mountain West is not getting a BCS bid this next go around but that is not the point; the point is that no matter how the ACC performs -- or any league that has a contract with a BCS bowl -- they would keep their bid while the current non-BCS leagues have to jump through hoops and get an exemption to gain a bid. I feel that if the Mountain West was to stay the same with Boise State that they would have received an exemption for a BCS bid based on that the ACC and I think the Big East are not currently in the top six in the three components for a league receiving a BCS bid.
FTRS: In 1978 Georgia Tech played Air Force and Eddie Lee Ivery ran all over the Falcons for 356 yards, a single game rushing record. Bill Parcells was the head coach of Air Force but more importantly Al Groh was the Defensive Coordinator. Is there a player on the Air Force squad that can bring back the bad ju-ju and pull a rushing performance like Ivery's again against Al Groh? Who is the one offensive player Tech fans should be aware of?
MWC: Well, Air Force employs more of a multiple back system with not one really dominant back who will rush for a ton of yards. The only Falcon who is the closest to that is Jared Tew, but he broke his leg against San Diego State back in October and his status is still uncertain. Players to watch out for in the rushing game are quarterback Tim Jefferson, backs Connor Dietz and Asher Clark. Each of those backs have the capability to explode for a big game, but there is not one particular back who carries the rushing load. Expect at least eight Falcons to run the ball.
FTRS: Air Force and Paul Johnson share a special history. Do you think the fans of Air Force especially want to defeat Tech because of Johnson's Navy roots and particularly good record against the Fighting Falcons?
MWC: Air Force struggled very much against Paul Johnson's Navy team by going 1-4 during that time. The Falcon fans want to beat Paul Johnson because how good he was against the Falcons rather then he was at Navy. Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun only faced Johnson once during that which was a loss in 2007 and not many players on the team were seeing too much action back then since they would have been freshman. The fans just want a win and beating a former rival coach would make it even better.
Thanks to Jeremy Mauss and Mountain West Connection for spending some time with us. Be sure to check out there blog for all things Mountain West and news related to the upcoming transition seasons we're gonna see from Utah, BYU, and TCU. Go Jackets!