Colorado St Wyoming Football

University of Wyoming redshirt senior linebacker Logan Wilson, right, intercepts a pass intended for Colorado State tight end Trey McBride during the Cowboys' 17-7 victory Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in Laramie.

Quarterback

University of Wyoming true freshman Levi Williams certainly adds an interesting wrinkle to the Cowboys’ quarterback room. Williams, seeing the first action of his college career, rotated with redshirt sophomore Tyler Vander Waal against Colorado State last week and, while neither put up eye-popping passing numbers, it was Williams’ legs that provided the offense with a needed spark. Air Force’s Donald Hammond III is the perfect quarterback for the Falcons' triple-option. He has nearly 500 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns to go with his 12 passing touchdowns. Hammond’s play in 2019 is one of the big reasons for the Falcons’ turnaround from consecutive sub-.500 seasons in 2017 and '18.

Advantage: Air Force

Running back

UW redshirt sophomore Xazavian Valladay has been on a mission since assuming his role as the Cowboys’ lead back. He has five consecutive 100-yard rushing games and has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark this season. However, depth behind him is thin, as UW will once again be without Titus Swen and Trey Smith, head coach Craig Bohl said Monday. Air Force brings three running backs to the table with more than 650 rushing yards: Kadin Remsberg (809 yards), Timothy Jackson (745 yards) and Taven Birdow (684 yards). The Falcons have the No. 2 rushing offense in college football. Their offensive scheme and the way they deploy multiple running backs is a big reason why.

Advantage: Air Force

Wide receiver and tight end

This matchup is tough, as neither team throws a high volume of passes. Air Force really only throws to two receivers: Benjamin Waters (546 yards, six touchdowns) and Geraud Sanders (713 yards, seven touchdowns). They are both prolific, averaging 32.1 and 25.5 yards per reception, respectively. UW's leading receiver is Austin Conway, who has 20 catches for 274 yards. While the Pokes spread their passes out more evenly, Air Force’s duo gets the edge due to production.

Advantage: Air Force

Offensive line

Both teams feature strong offensive lines that were midseason honorees for the Joe Moore Award (best offensive line in college football). Neither was named a semifinalist, though Air Force’s unit was named honorable mention. What can’t be overlooked, though, is how much adversity UW’s line has gone through. Despite a rotating cast of characters, UW has the 21st-ranked rush offense in the country and has allowed just 18 sacks. This one is a coin flip.

Advantage: Push

Defensive line

As a team, Air Force has collected 22 sacks. UW, on the other hand, has 31. UW doesn’t have one player who gets all the sacks; no defender has more than 6.5. Both teams have prolific rushing defenses, so there isn’t a huge difference in stuffing the line of scrimmage. However, because of their ability to rush the passer, the Cowboys get the edge.

Advantage: Wyoming

Linebacker

Wyoming boasts the best linebacker in the Mountain West and one of the best in all of college football in redshirt senior Logan Wilson, who was named a finalist for the Butkus Award on Monday. Wilson is joined by Cassh Maluia, Keyon Blakenbaker and Chad Muma, who make up one of the most formidable linebacking units in the conference. Air Force’s Demonte Meeks is a likely all-conference selection (87 tackles, four sacks). UW’s overall group is better than Air Force’s, however.

Advantage: Wyoming

Secondary

The Falcons have a fairly stout passing defense that allows just 216.9 yards per game. UW, meanwhile, allows 276.2 yards per game, which ranks 116th in the country. UW had trouble preventing big plays at Utah State Nov. 16 and had occasional lapses in coverage against Colorado State on Nov. 22. Air Force has done a better job of preventing the big play overall.

Advantage: Air Force

Special teams

Air Force kicker Jake Koehnke has not missed a field goal try this season, though he has missed four extra point attempts. UW’s Cooper Rothe seemed to get back on track against Colorado State, hitting a huge 48-yard field goal during the fourth quarter that all but sealed the win for the Cowboys. UW also has stellar kick and punt return units that rank 4th and 31st, respectively. Air Force, meanwhile, has punted just 26 times this season (40.42 yard average), which is the second-fewest in the nation behind Oklahoma, and have allowed a total of negative-2 return yards.

Advantage: Push

Final score: Air Force 34 Wyoming 21

Michael Katz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached by email at mkatz@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelLKatz.

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