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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Utes (5-1, 2-0 MWC) put on the pads again this week, finally back at home at Rice-Eccles Stadium against a tough, improved, and perennial thorn in their side Air Force Academy.Air Force (4-3, 3-1 MWC) is the only Mountain West Conference team that has a winning record against the Utes, and these games are always decided by 8 pts or less (except 2004). In 2003, Utah won a triple-overtime nail biter (45-43), 38-35 for the Utes in 2005, 17-14 in '06, the Falcons win 20-12 in '07, and of course Utah beat Air Force last year (30-23) on their way to the undefeated Season and Sugar Bowl win.
One factor that will loom large in this match up is Utah Safety Joe Dale not playing. Against a triple-option team, the safeties are a huge part of the defense as they are able to play closer to the line, almost as an extra linebacker.
The Air Force Falcons have the best turnover ratio in the country at +17. They have 21 takeaways this season and have only lost 4 fumbles.
This is a game of match ups, discipline, and field position. Normally the match up of the Air Force offense and the Utah rush defense is a solid bet for the Utes. This season the Utah rush defense hasn't been as dominant, whereas the Falcons rush offense has remained at the top nationally.
Punt Returns (Luke Matthews)
Last week was the beginning of Utah's "if we want to do anything this year" stretch of the season. Utah has not won pretty this season, but they have won all of the games except one. The game they did lose (if any loss can look good) against Oregon is looking better and better as far as the computer rankings in the BCS go. The Ducks only loss is to the #4 Boise State Broncos. If Utah can keep winning through this part of the schedule (this week vs. Air Force, 10/31 vs. Wyoming, and 11/7 vs. New Mexico) and beat a couple of highly ranked teams in TCU and BYU, the Utes may have another outside shot, albeit very outside shot at the BCS again this year.