The “king of the hill” for military academies in 2016 was the Air Force Falcons, racking up a 10-3 regular season, winning notably against Army, Navy, and Boise State, and took the Nova Home Loans bowl from Southern Alabama 45-21. Nine-year Falcons coach Troy Calhoun seems to have Air Force in a winning direction, but for how long can he keep the good times rolling?
One reason Air Force has found success is their adaptation to modernized football. The falcons tend to throw the ball more than their academy colleagues. “(Playing modern football) helps on two fronts,” explained Air Force Head Coach Tony Calhoun. “For one, can take advantages of big plays in regards to play action passes. Secondly, our defense benefits because they see formations (in practice) they they experience against our non-academy opponents and are better suited to defend against it.”
Air Force returns five starters on offense. Their defense? One. Yikes.
I asked if the Falcons had found success in filling those holes during spring ball. Calhoun replied that the process would lead into August. “We had Jacoby Owens, who rushed for over 3,000 yards in three years. Had one of our finest receivers in school history graduate as well. That’s the way football goes, its cyclical. But we have good guys right now, guys who like going in the weigh room, throwing on the pads, so we’ll get there.”
Calhoun also responded on the future hardship of starting their season with five of their first eight games on the road. “It translates in a military aspect to our players. Not every mission they will go on will be in the continental United States. Sometimes you take these things day by day, and that’s how we’ll work through that part of the schedule.”
So what about those “good times” mentioned back in the first paragraph? My prediction is that they end this season. No matter how powerful a program is, rebuilding and restructuring an entire defense will flatten most chances of a ten-win season. With Army’s potential rise to relevancy and Navy seemingly chugging along at their own pace, the Falcons may take a significant dive in academy bragging rights. Despite this, Air Force should still have a winning season and be bowl-eligible.
My prediction: 6-6