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Five storylines: Air Force

9/6/2012

Here are five storylines regarding Air Force, Michigan’s opponent on Saturday:

1. Replacing the center: Perhaps more than in any other offense, Air Force’s no-huddle wishbone relies a lot on the play of its center to set all the line calls and make things run smoothly up front. Against Michigan, this will be even more critical considering the size disadvantage. However, the Falcons will be breaking in a new center, Austin Hayes, after starter Michael Husar was lost for the season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee. How quickly Hayes adjusts will be critical to any Air Force success.

2. Running the no-huddle wishbone: Air Force’s best chance for success comes from its old-school, unconventional offense. None of these Michigan players have faced a wishbone team in college and none have seen it at the speed and crispness it can be played. An offense like this, which is led by quarterback Connor Dietz -- coincidentally a senior from Columbus, Ohio -- is predicated on timing and precision. It worked almost flawlessly Saturday as Air Force gained 484 yards rushing.

3. Shoring up its secondary: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson might not have looked crisp against Alabama on Saturday, but Air Force’s defense is nowhere near the same league as the Crimson Tide. The Falcons, who play a 3-4, allowed 365 yards passing to FCS school Idaho State and 431 yards of total offense. Considering the tallest player in the Air Force secondary is Brian Lindsay at 6-foot-1, the Falcons will have to improve the pass coverage against a taller group of Michigan receivers.

4. Hitting the long passes: Part of what makes the wishbone so effective is the element of surprise when Air Force passes the ball. If Dietz is able to complete those passes when called, it forces the opposing secondary to pull back just a smidgen and gives Air Force the room it needs to gash opposing defenses.

5. Keeping the youth in check: Air Force has a lot of players making their first road trip as starters. The Falcons had 13 new starters last week against Idaho State and should have a similar amount -- Husar was among them -- making their first road start at Michigan Stadium on Saturday. Dealing with that environment early will be critical to any success the Falcons have.