The 20th rendition of the Armed Forces Bowl is set to take off December 22nd pitting last year’s Big 12 champion Baylor Bears (6-6) against the 9-3 Air Force Falcons. Of the 11 seasons in which a service academy has been invited to the Armed Forces Bowl, they have managed to run a 6-5 record on the heels of a two-game winning streak. Can the Falcons continue the trend or will Baylor even the score?
This year will be the first for the Falcons since 2015 when they lost 55-36 to the California Bears, and will be their sixth overall trip to the Armed Forces Bowl — They’ll be looking to get back in the win column for the first time since their 47-20 rout of the Houston Cougars. Air Force has an bowl record of 13-13-1, their tie came in a 0-0 game against TCU in the 1959 Cotton Bowl.
Baylor will be making their Armed Forces Bowl debut on Thursday, but this will be the fourth time the two teams have squared off – Baylor has yet to lose in the series and is carrying a 6-3 bowl game record since the RG3-led Bears lost to Illinois in the 2010 Texas Bowl. The Bears are 14-12 overall in bowl games, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Ole Miss last season.
Armed Forces Bowl: Tale of the Tape
Baylor has had a less-than-stellar season following their magical run to a Big 12 Championship and beating the 11th ranked Ole Miss Rebels in the Sugar Bowl. Dave Aranda’s squad has had the misfortune of playing the 32nd hardest schedule in the country, playing games against five teams that were ranked at the time of playing or are currently ranked, including three games against top-20 teams to close the regular season.
Despite the difficult schedule the Bears managed to produce one of the most potent offenses (T-32) in the country led by second year quarterback Blake Shapen and freshman running back Richard Reese. The Bears 33.6ppg is a two point improvement over last year’s team — a great sign considering it is essentially being led by a slew of underclassmen at skill positions.
So, if the offense has improved why have the wins not followed suit this year? Well, as they say, there’s two sides to every coin. Baylor’s defense has struggled mightily against the high-powered offenses of the Big 12 this season.
The defensive unit has gone from 14th in the nation only surrendering 19.2ppg in 2021 to 65th at 26.6ppg this year. Seven points may not seem like a lot, but that equates to 89 points over the course of the season hence their 3-3 record in one-score games this season. Natural course of college football when you have mass turnover nearly every year. The defensive unit will have their work cut out for them against the country’s top rushing attack.
QB Blake Shapen – The sophomore had a promising season against a brutal lineup of teams. Tossing 16 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and 2,602 yards, the first year signal caller looks to have a good amount of upside. Can he utilize his opportunity in the spotlight and take advantage of an Air Force defense that hasn’t played against the level of talent the Bears have?
Air Force Falcons
Baylor and Air Force are virtually polar opposites. Typical of a service academy, the Falcons’ offense is… archaic to say the least, passing for just a shade under 68 yards per game. This isn’t your granddaddy’s three yards and a cloud of dust offense though, averaging 330ypg on the ground — the next closest team is Army with 289ypg.
The offense can score points too. For a team that runs the ball so much it naturally shortens games, so 27.7ppg for a run dominant team is a pretty high clip. It will be interesting to see if Baylor’s 45th ranked run defense will be up to the challenge.
As for the Falcons defense, they bring the third best scoring defense (19.2ppg) in the country to the table. It’s fair to say their defense hasn’t faced the challenges the Bears have this season though. In fact, Baylor will be the best offense Air Force has faced all season by a fairly wide margin. This is where I feel the game could snowball for the Falcons.
RB Brad Roberts – The senior running back has had as good a season as any back in the country. Running for 1,612 yards and 15 touchdowns he has been the workhorse of the nations best rushing attack will be looking to go out with statement performance in the final game of his collegiate career. The Baylor Bears leaky defense should afford Roberts the opportunity for a fitting finale in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Armed Forces Bowl: Betting Nuggets
Just a couple of historical facts that may mean nothing or may mean everything, Thursday’s result will tell. Air Force is currently on a three bowl game win streak, but has never beaten Baylor in their lifetime series and holds a 1-4 record in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Baylor is obviously undefeated in lifetime series, never been selected for the Armed Forces Bowl, and are coming off last season’s Sugar Bowl Victory.
Vegas is likely going to be right on this one as much as I would like to see my Air Force solidify a great season and take home their 10th win of the year.
Baylor -180 — Air Force +152
Baylor -4 — Air Force +4
Point Total Over/Under:
Per Caesars SportsBook
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE