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College Football Futures Wager

   by Scott Spreitzer - 08/05/2008

I'm taking the Air Force Falcons to finish UNDER their projected seven-win total. Last season's squad truly over-achieved for then first
year coach Troy Calhoun. Air Force finished the conference season with a 6-2 SU mark, going 9-4, overall. Looking closer at the
6-2 mark within the Mountain West Conference and you'll see this team was out-gained on average by more than 10 yards per game.
When a team finishes with a conference mark as good as 6-2, yet were out-gained, it normally means they were not as good as their
record would indicate. In fact, the Falcons won four games that could have easily gone the other way over the final quarter of play.
Air Force was basically a handful of plays from being 5-8, rather than 9-4.

This season will be a true test of Calhoun's coaching prowess, and probably more importantly, his patience as a young coach. First of all,
QB Shaun Carney is gone, leaving the Falcons with a group of signal callers who have COMBINED to throw a grand total of 12 collegiate
passes! All of their top skill players have moved on due to graduation, leaving Air Force with new faces at quarterback, fullback, tailback,
wide receiver and their "WRZ" position. The offensive line loses three starters from last year's unit, including All-Mountain West Center Blaine Guenther.

Calhoun and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter switched to a 3-4 alignment last season. That was a great move considering the talent they
had at linebacker. But this season is a different story. The Falcons only return one starter (Hunter Altman) to the unit. Calhoun must replace
the team's top tackler and 2nd team all-conference linebacker Drew Fowler, along with 1st-team all-conference linebacker John Rabold, who
finished last season with no less than 17 tackles for loss.

The losses in the secondary may be even tougher to replace. Air Force made great strides in pass defense, returning all but one starter
to last year's squad. This year, only one starter (SS - Chris Thomas) returns. The three players lost to graduation combined to make
almost 90 starts between them in their playing careers. So much for the "academies are always replacing starters" theory.

The schedule does them no favors. Air Force "escaped" with a controversial win over Wyoming last season. This year, they have to travel
to Laramie in week-two, with their young squad. The Falcons follow that roadie with a trip to Houston the following week, before returning
home to face a very strong Utah team that will have revenge on their mind. AFA knocked off the Utes last season, but Utah played without
several key starters, including QB Brian Johnson. They have their usual tilt with Navy in early October, followed by back-to-back road
games within the conference. Included in that stretch will be a game at UNLV, who outgained the Falcons by 17 yards, yet lost 31-14, thanks
to catastrophic mistakes in the final quarter. AFA plays at Army this season. They wrap up the season with BYU at home and a road game
at TCU. The Cougars are thinking undefeated season, and the Horned Frogs are yet another team that will be out for revenge when they
host the Falcons on 11/22.

It's a tough slate for a team without much experience in several key positions. The Over/Under was set at seven wins. I'll be surprised if
Air Force finishes with more than five. In fact, a 4-8 season in Calhoun's second at the helm is not out of the question. I'll take a look
at more futures as we inch closer to the season. Until next week...good betting!

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