The Air Force Falcons are 1-point favorites on NCAA football odds with a total of 56.5 for Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise against Western Michigan.
Fleck's Masterpiece Job at WMU
Western Michigan finished the season 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Quite a year under the youngest coach in the FBS, P.J. Fleck, as the Broncos were just 1-11 in 2013, Fleck's first season. WMU closed the regular season with a 31-21 home loss to Northern Illinois, which sent the Huskies back to the MAC title game, which they won again. Western outplayed NIU, Fleck's alma mater, but had six turnovers. The Broncos held the ball for a whopping 44:18.
Fleck was named the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, and freshman running back Jarvion Franklin was named MAC Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. No player had ever won both. Franklin set the conference single-season rushing record with 1,525 yards, which ranked ninth in the nation. He set the WMU single-season touchdown record with 25 and the single-season points record with 150 points. His 24 rushing touchdowns ranked second in the country and third in MAC history for a single season. Franklin is one of 18 true freshmen who played this season for the Broncos.
Fleck is the first WMU coach to win the award since Bill Cubit in 2005. The Broncos also have one of the MAC's best receivers in sophomore Corey Davis, who caught 70 passes for 1,232 yards and 12 scores. He was first-team All-MAC along with Franklin. Quarterback Zach Terrell (3,146 yards, 23 TDs) also is just a sophomore so the Broncos will be a MAC favorite next season. WMU boasted the MAC's top scoring offense, averaging 34.6 points per game. Terrell led the MAC in pass efficiency and was No. 4 nationally.
This actually will be Western's second game in Idaho this season, although first on the blue turf of Boise. The Broncos won 45-33 at Idaho on Sept. 13. The seven-win turnaround was the best in program history and Mid-American Conference history. It's the first-ever trip to this College Football Bowl Series Championship game for WMU. The Broncos are 0-5 in their bowl history, last playing in the 2011 Little Caesar's Bowl.
Western is 10-2 against the NCAA football betting spread and 7-5 'over/under.'
Falcons Ground and Pound
Air Force was just 2-10 last year under Coach Troy Calhoun but finished the regular season 9-3 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference. The Falcons' best win was Sept. 27 against Boise State, 28-14. AFA also upset of Colorado State in the regular-season finale. Will Conant, the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year, won it on a 39-yard field goal at the gun. Air Force and Ole Miss are the only two schools to beat a pair of 10-win teams in 2014.
As usual, Air Force is one of the most run-heavy teams in the nation. The Falcons rank No. 8 nationally in averaging 272.2 yards per game on the ground. The leading rusher is Jacobi Owens with 1,054 yards, but he was lost late in the year to a season-ending knee injury. Quarterback Kole Pearson started the team's first 11 games but missed the finale with an ankle injury. He should play in the bowl. Sophomore backup Nate Romine was 6-for-15 for 135 yards and rushed 25 times for 61 yards and a score in his place vs. the Rams. Pearson has completed 96 of 162 pass attempts for 1,513 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also has rushed for 646 yards and six touchdowns.
The seven-win jump is the biggest in Air Force history, surpassing the `58 squad that went 9-0-2 after going 3-6-1 the year before. Another important thing to keep in mind before making your College Football picks is that AFA and WMU have never played one another. The Falcons haven't played a MAC team since losing to Toledo 42-41 in the 2011 Military Bowl. It's Air Force's 24th bowl game overall and first since 2012. The Falcons are 2-4 in bowl games under Calhoun. AFA and WMU didn't have a common opponent this year.
Air Force is 7-5 against the spread and 4-8 'over/under' on College Football odds.
Free College Football Picks: Air Force -1 and 'under' 56.5 points. AFA is 4-1 ATS in its past five non-conference games. The 'under' is 6-1 in Western's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The 'under' is 10-2 in Air Force's past 12 out of conference.