2012 Record: 6-7 (5-3 in MWC)
Head Coach: Troy Calhoun (47-31 at Air Force, 29-18 in MWC)
Four Year Trend: 7.5 wins and 5.5 losses
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Armed Forces Bowl: lost to Rice 33-14
Stadium: Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, CO (capacity = 46,692)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 10th out of 55 mid-major teams
Armed Forces: 10/5 at Navy, 11/2 vs Army
Revenge: 10/10 vs SDSU, 11/21 vs UNLV
Swing Games: 9/7 vs Utah State, 9/28 at Nevada
Stats to Fear: -1.00 turnover margin (9th in MWC), -1.57 turnover margin in losses (9th in MWC), 16 takeaways in 2012 (last in MWC)
Stat to Cheer: converted on 48.68% of third downs (2nd in MWC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 96th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense 6, Special Teams 1
Key Defensive Returnees: DE Alex Hanson (36 tackles, 4 sacks), DB Christian Spears (91 tackles), DB Steffon Batts (77 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Jon Lee (545 yds rush, 6.19 ypc), WR Ty MacArthur (24 rec, 467 yds rush)
Record-wise, 2012 was the worst season at Air Force for Troy Calhoun. They started out just 2-3 including a lose to UNLV and a heart-breaking OT loss to Navy and they finished losing four of five including a loss to rival Army and two routes to finish the season against Fresno State and Rice. The decline in wins was somewhat predictable as the Falcons returned the 122nd most starters in college football last season. This year the Falcons are a little higher on that list but still rank just 88th.The fact that Air Force is a non-scholarship school and they do red-shirt will obviously have an impact on those numbers.
For the third straight season, the Falcons will start a different QB. Kale Pearson is the next man up. He's a smaller QB so it will be interesting to see how he holds up to the pounding he could take in the Falcons offense but Calhoun raves about his leadership qualities. The Falcons must replace their top rusher (Cody Getz) but Jon Lee was impressive when he was inserted last season. WR Ty MacArthur also returns and he will be one to watch. The Falcons have some rebuilding to do on their offensive line as they lose three starters including All-MWC second teamer Jordan Eason. They return one player (LG Drew Kerber) with over ten starts, two players with six starts (RG David Lore and C Austin Hayes) and two others that have a combined four starts.
A key for the defense will be stopping the pass. The Falcons have regressed in this area over the last two years. Another area Air Force must improve in is forcing turnovers. They caused just 16 last season and that's a far cry from their 26 in 2011 or 34 in 2009. The DE position should be a strength for the Falcons as they return their top four at that position but they don't return any experience at DT (they run a 3-4). There will be a huge changeover at linebacker as the Falcons lose their top three tacklers and five of their top six. Jared Jones and Joey Nichol return at OLB with experience. The Falcons are inexperienced at ILB which could be a huge concern with their lack of experience also at DT. The Falcons return a bunch of experience in the secondary (needing to replace just SS Brian Lindsay) but the secondary needs to be much better this season.
The schedule is tougher at the beginning of the season and then eases up at the end. Back-to-back games against Utah State and Boise State will be tough games after the opener against Colgate. Then the Falcons must face a four game stretch with Nevada, Navy, SDSU and Notre Dame that will probably define it's season. If they can win two of those games they should have a really good year, if they win just one they will still probably go bowling but if they lose all of them then they will fall from bowl contention. I see this as a six or seven win team depending on the defense. Last year, the Falcons lost to Army and Navy for the first time since 2005. They can't do that again this season.