AF at Utah Preview
Salt Lake City, UT - Utah is the 39th team with at least 600 wins. One more will make it bowl eligible yet again.
The 19th-ranked Utes look to remain unbeaten in Mountain West Conference play and secure a chance to appear in their seventh straight bowl game as they host Air Force on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made Utah –9.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Utah –9.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Utah (5-1, 2-0) moved up five spots in this week's poll after beating UNLV 35-15 last Saturday night.
That put the Utes' record at 600-418-31 over 116 seasons. Their next win will make them bowl eligible for the seventh straight year, which includes BCS appearances in 2004 and '08.
Though its two conference games have been on the road, Utah is one of three undefeated teams in MWC play. The Utes are tied with No. 10 TCU and both teams trail No. 16 BYU, which has three conference victories.
Utah now plays three straight at home before a road game against the Horned Frogs.
"We have to take it one game at a time," Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Conference play is just beginning. We approach it one week at a time. Anytime we play (Air Force), it been right down to the wire. We expect another tough game from them."
The Utes trail their series with the Falcons 14-11, but have won five of six and had 440 yards in a 30-23 victory Sept. 20, 2008.
Utah enters this contest averaging 419.2 yards, which ranks third in the conference.
Terrance Cain led the Utes' latest effort, passing for two touchdowns and rushing for another score versus UNLV. He has thrown for six TDs while getting intercepted twice in his last three games.
Cain has also rushed for 359 yards, joining Eddie Wide to give Utah a strong threat on the ground. Wide has rushed for 342 yards and two TDs in his last three games for the Utes, who average 5.0 yards per rush.
An effective rushing attack does a good job of complementing Utah's tough defense, which has held five of six opponents under 18 points.
"The (Air Force game) will be one of the toughest games we will play this year," said defensive back Robert Johnson, whose five interceptions put him a in a tie for the first in the nation.
The Falcons have the country's seventh-ranked scoring defense, holding opponents to 11.9 points per contest, and they're coming off perhaps their best effort of the season.
Air Force held Wyoming to 174 yards in a 10-0 win last Saturday, shutting out a Mountain West opponent for the first time since a 24-0 victory at Colorado State on Sept. 20, 1997. It was the fourth time this season the Falcons have held an opponent without a TD in the first half.
With Jared Tew rushing for a season-high 105 yards, Air Force got just enough production from its triple-option offense. Because Air Force passes so rarely, Johnson's chances of being a factor could be limited, but Utah may consider using him closer to the line of scrimmage.
Air Force has seven players with at least 137 yards rushing. Quarterback Connor Dietz, who has 279 yards on the ground, came off the bench in the second half Saturday to spark the Falcons' offense.
He ran for 30 yards after replacing starter Tim Jefferson, who was returning after missing the previous weeks' 20-17 loss to TCU with an injured right ankle. Dietz appeared more mobile than Jefferson, who looked to be favoring the ankle at times.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun feels confident in both players, and may rotate the pair.
"I think both guys realize they have contributions that we're going to need," Calhoun said. "Both guys are only going to get better."
Posted: 10/21/09 1:19AM ET