The foe is the Devil’s Anvil, as Baylor’s defenders will discover, not that mythical stretch in the godforsaken desert that Lawrence of Arabia had to cross before taking Aqaba.
Air Force is college football’s grand oxymoron, completing maybe three passes a game. It grinds foes into the ground with its incessant triple-option attack, squeezing the life out of the other guys like a giant octopus.
Baylor kind of bumbled its way through a mediocre season and will find, in a game ESPN will televise, that the Falcons take these bowl games very seriously.
Baylor vs. Air Force Betting Lines: Point Spread, Total, Moneyline
Here are current lines from top US sportsbook apps for Thursday’s Lockheed Martin Armed Services Bowl.
NCAAF · Thu (12/22) @ 7:34pm ET
|Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX|
Air Force Falcons (9-3, 6-6 ATS)
There are few collegiate football programs with the stability of Air Force, which has had just two head coaches, Fisher DeBerry and Troy Calhoun, since 1984.
Calhoun played quarterback for a stretch for DeBerry, and it seems his biggest honor was being one of only two freshmen to receive a letter in 1985.
Air Force is No. 1 in the country (for the third consecutive season) with 313 rushing yards per game, 61 runs a game, and in keeping it on the ground 88.6 percent of the time.
San Diego State presents a fine case study for the damage — that aforementioned octopus—the Falcons can wreak.
The Aztecs finally found a quarterback halfway through the season, in former Mississippi State hurler Jalen Mayden. In six games, he turned the Aztecs’ season around, as they averaged nearly 400 yards and are going to a bowl because of him.
In five in a row, they averaged 150 on the ground. But in the regular-season finale at home against Air Force, SDSU ran 15 times for a net minus-1 yard, with fewer than 200 passing yards in a 13-3 defeat.
The Falcons, who have won four of their past five bowl games, held their past six opponents all under 20 points; two tallied seven, two only a field goal. Fifty-one total points allowed in their final six games.
Good luck with The Triple-Option Anvil, Baylor.
Baylor Bears (6-6, 7-5 ATS)
Baylor enters this one having allowed 38, 29, 31, and 35 points to its past four foes, respectively.
A run defense that yielded an average of 179 yards over its past five games was a sieve in its last one, letting the Longhorns ramble for 208 and five touchdowns in Austin.
The Sooners dashed for 238 in Norman, the Mountaineers 217 in Morgantown. In the past four Baylor games, the other guys each tallied more than 400 yards of total offense, running it into the end zone 12 total times.
This could develop into quite a heavyweight ground battle, though, as the Bears did accumulate at least 231 rushing yards in six games this season.
Their danger man is Richard Reese, with a team-best 962 yards and 14 TDs on the ground. Craig Williams and Qualan Jones nearly combined for 1,000 rushing yards, totaling 11 TDs.
A 5-foot-9, 175-pound true freshman from Bellville, Texas, northwest of Houston, Reese beat out at least a half-dozen others to snatch the starter’s reins, and he inked an NIL deal with Reese’s.
He and 11 others with that surname in college football received an abundance of swag, including a custom-fit orange Reese’s blazer and a mini-fridge to fit in their lockers, to store all those peanut butter cups.
The reality is that a program whose last two bowl games were in the Sugar is the lone Big 12 squad not to play a Power Five program in this postseason, and the Bears must do so on TCU’s field.
All the ingredients are in place for Air Force to belt Baylor with one final indignity.
Armed Forces Bowl Prediction
In our meticulous charting of every bowl game, this was the first one — in order of appearance — that showed the wrong team favored.
All three of our models have the academy coming out victorious, by 15, eight, and five points, respectively. Take Air Force and the points, and maybe nibble a bit on the Falcons’ moneyline.
The other four wrong-team-favored games? Stay tuned to this space.
As is our bowl custom, we advise half-unit plays because bowl season is just a different bird. We have trusted experts who soar during regular seasons, only to return hard-earned profits, regularly, in December. Caution is paramount.
Picks: Air Force plus the points; Air Force moneyline
Scroll through the lines: College football bowl game odds