Colorado St.-Air Force Preview

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Colorado State's chances at a Mountain West title hinge on being the first team to win at Air Force and on a more substantial home win streak ending the next day.

The 21st-ranked Rams will first focus their attention Friday on beating the Falcons, then hope for Utah State to pull off an upset Saturday at No. 25 Boise State.

If it were entirely in their hands, the Rams (10-1, 6-1) might feel confident after posting a school-record 698 yards of offense in Saturday's 58-20 home win over New Mexico.

It was their ninth straight win since losing at Boise State on Sept. 6, which ranks third in the FBS behind Florida State (27) and Marshall (12). Extending it to 10 would match their best run since the 1997-98 seasons.

The Rams also need the 6-1 team in the Mountain Division which they've beaten - Utah State - to take down the 6-1 team they lost to in order to have the tiebreaker fall their way and play Dec. 6 in the championship game. Boise State has won 12 straight at home over three seasons, and had the Rams interrupted that run, they'd be in total control of the conference outcome heading into their rivalry game.

"As we go through life, sometimes we get tripped up and can't go back," coach Jim McElwain said. "That's not something we can look back and do. All we can do is look forward to going and getting that (Ram-Falcon) trophy and keeping it. Again, playing against a really good Air Force team - a well-coached team that's going to play their tails off to get that trophy back."

The Rams have thrived all season through the air with school record-setters Garrett Grayson and Rashard Higgins, but the last two weeks have featured impressive ground efforts totaling 585 yards led by Dee Hart.

Hart, in his first year at Colorado State after transferring from Alabama, ran 20 times for a career-high 230 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 42 yards and another score to match the school's single-game TD record.

In the same game, Grayson, the nation's No. 2 rated passer (176.3), threw for 389 yards and passed Bradlee Van Pelt for the school's all-time total yardage lead. Grayson has 16 TDs and no interceptions in his last six games and his yards per attempt (10.04) are tied for an FBS best - the numbers that matter to his coach.

"What I like is that he's really become efficient," McElwain said.

Higgins, who leads the country with 1,447 receiving yards and 15 TDs despite missing a game due to injury, caught 10 passes for 167 yards to establish a new single-season yardage mark at the school.

It all adds up to Colorado State as one of 12 FBS schools averaging over 500 yards of offense, and that production was foreshadowed in last season's 58-13 home win over Air Force. That win ended a seven-game losing streak in the series, and the Rams put up 629 yards with Grayson finding Higgins for two of his three TDs on a 395-yard passing day.

Air Force (8-3, 4-3) is 5-0 at home and enjoying a school-best six-win turnaround after finishing 2-10 a season ago. The Falcons provided the Rams with some help in the conference race by beating Boise State in Colorado Springs on Sept. 27, though CSU has been unable to win there since 2002 - a 0-5 run with a losing margin of 19.4 points.

The Falcons' four-game winning streak came to an end with a 30-14 loss at San Diego State last Friday. They turned the ball over four times after committing three giveaways on the winning streak.

Air Force ranks second in the conference with 274.9 rushing yards per game and is 8-0 when its rushing production exceeds its passing. Colorado State allowed 301 rushing yards to New Mexico, the conference's top rushing team.