Air Force football 2022 season prediction, preview, awards, 2022 bowl game

Air Force Falcons running back Brad Roberts. (Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports)
Air Force Falcons running back Brad Roberts. (Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports) /

Air Force football produced their fourth 10-win season under Troy Calhoun last year but they’ll be looking for even more in 2022.

The triple-option threat of Air Force football could be one of the teams to watch in the Mountain West this year after bringing back some big hitters from last year’s squad.

But there are holes on defense that need filling before they can be declared contenders.

The Falcons come into the season ranked No. 30 in the FanSided Top 50 Preseason Rankings.

Here’s what you need to know about them for 2022:

Air Force football 2021 season in review

The Falcons won 10 games in 2021 but they lost both games against ranked teams Utah State and San Diego State while also dropping a contest to rival Army, so there is definite room for improvement.

The loss to the Aggies was particularly disappointing as it kept Air Force from winning the Mountain Division outright and going to the MWC Championship Game. USU had the tie breaker and won the conference over SDSU.

Flying on the road was no problem for last year’s squad. They were 5-0 away from home. They’ll need to keep that up again to contend for a conference title this year.

Previewing Air Force Falcons offense for 2022 season

  • Returning starters (8): QB Haaziq Daniels, RB DeAndre Hughs, FB Brad Roberts, WR Dane Kinamon, C Thor Paglialong, RG Isaac Cochran, RT Kaleb Holcomb, LT Everett Smalley
  • Notable newcomers: N/A
  • Impact player: Brad Roberts

Quarterback Haaziq Daniels finished the 2021 season on a high with an MVP performance in the Servpro First Responder Bowl. He’s coming back as the undisputed starter for his third campaign.

The dual-threat abilities of Daniels will be complemented by Brad Roberts, who set a single-season record for rushing yards by an Air Force fullback last season with 1,356 yards.

The offensive line should be in good shape this year with four returning starters from a stout group in 2021. Everett Smalley is the best of the bunch at left tackle.

The Falcons are a rushing team first and foremost but the receivers will try to keep defenses honest by popping when they can. The healthy return of Micah Davis though leading receiver Brandon Lewis is now gone.

Previewing Air Force Falcons defense for 2022 season

  • Returning starters (7): NG Kalawai’a Pescaia, DT Chris Herrera, LB Vince Sanford, LB Alec Mock, CB Zion Kelly, SS Trey Taylor, FS Camby Goff
  • Notable newcomers: N/A
  • Impact player: Vince Sanford

Replacing first-team All-Mountain West selection Jordan Jackson will be tough for Air Force. On the plus side, outside linebacker Vince Sanford does return along with his 9.5 sacks from last year.

It would be easier if the secondary wasn’t losing key players as well, including cornerback Tre Bugg and safety Corvan Taylor.

The big departures are certainly big ones but the majority of the defense is still slated to come back. Whether or not the Falcons can keep up their strong defensive showing from 2021 depends on how well those gaps are filled.

Air Force football players awards watch for 2022 season

The Falcons have three players on preseason watch lists for national awards.

Vince Sanford, Bednarik/Nagurski

Sanford was eighth nationally in tackles for loss per game and 13th in sacks per game last year. Somehow he was only a second-team selection on the All-MW team. Coming into this season there will be many more eyes on him, with awards potentially on the horizon.

Brad Roberts, Walter Camp

Roberts is the top returning rusher in the Mountain West after averaging 104 yards per game last season. The fullback broke Air Force records and now has hopes of adding to the trophy case with a national award.

Everett Smalley, Outland

Air Force led the nation in rushing last year thanks in part to Smalley. After making the finalist list for the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the nation’s best offensive line, he could make a push for an individual award as well.

Air Force Falcons biggest game on 2022 schedule

Boise State was picked ahead of Air Force in the Mountain West preseason media poll even though the Falcons beat the Broncos last season. Their meeting on Oct. 22 in Colorado Springs, following back-to-back road games against Utah State and UNLV, looms large.

Air Force football best-case scenario

The Falcons have the offense to roll through the Mountain West, with double-digit wins well in sight again. Calhoun is still waiting for his first MW championship and this really could be the year if the defense overcomes major personnel losses.

Air Force football worst-case scenario

The defense could drop off a bit in 2022 while the offense stutters just enough to let Boise State and Utah State take control of the Mountain division.

There should be no struggle for bowl eligibility but missing on higher aspirations will feel like a letdown. Double that sensation if the Falcons fall to Navy and Army.

Air Force football 2022 season prediction

Air Force has a chance of starting the season 5-0 but the October stretch including road games against Utah State and UNLV then a pre-bye week tilt with Boise State is probably where it will fall apart.

The Falcons will come out of the bye 6-2 with a loss to San Diego State capping the regular season at 9-3. On the plus side, they’ll beat Navy and Army along the way.

Air Force football 2022 bowl game prediction

Bill Bender of Sporting News projects the Falcons to play Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Up Next: No. 29: Ole Miss Rebels

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