35 Bowls in 24 Days: Military Bowl

The bowl series will take a military theme today with the preview of what should be a very interesting Military Bowl. On Wednesday, RFK Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C. will be opened for football yet again in the annual meeting of a service academy and another closely-matched football team. It should be thrilling to see how the two match up!

More: See the other bowl games

Toledo Rockets (8-4, 7-1 MAC) vs. Air Force Falcons (7-5, 3-4 MWC), Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, 4:30 p.m. [ESPN]

At 7-1 in the MAC, Toledo didn’t even win their own division, but they are a very dangerous team. In the last five weeks of the season, the Rockets’ point totals were as follows: 49, 60 (a 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois), 66, 44 and 45. You could imagine that an offense like that had a lot of success at the end of the year, and you’re right — Toledo finished the regular season with seven wins in eight games.

The challenge for Air Force is to slow that offense, because it’s very difficult to keep pace when they’re scoring 60-plus points. Only two defenses have really been able to make the Rockets look bad this season: Ohio State and Boise State. So good luck, Falcons.

Air Force has seven wins for the fifth year in a row, the best stretch ever for that program. But they have a chance to win a bowl game, so they’re not finished. The question is, how do they put together a complete game, keeping up with their average of 34.4 points per game while slowing down Toledo?

To me, Air Force runs the perfect offense to slow Toledo by winning time of possession — the triple-option. Ranking second in the nation in rushing with an average of 320.3 yards per game, the key will be long, successful possessions for the Falcons. If they can execute 10-to-15-play drives that culminate in touchdowns, this game will be incredibly thrilling.

The big question surrounding Toledo is how they will play without their head coach. Tim Beckman departed for Illinois when their head coaching role was offered up, so offensive coordinator Matt Campbell was named the head coach of the Rockets for the bowl game and beyond.

This shouldn’t affect much, you would think. Their offense is what got them to this point, and the man who led them is still leading them. I think the Military Bowl has a chance to be one of the most underrated bowls of this year, and while both offenses score a lot of points, expect it to be a lower-scoring game than we’ve seen in games involving Toledo lately (due to the clock-eating offense Air Force runs).

My prediction: Toledo 34, Air Force 24

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