Football: Air Force faces uphill fight in Annapolis

The Air Force Academy Falcon defense swarms the Navy ball carrier on the field at Falcon Stadium as Air Force defeated Navy 14-6 at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 2, 2010. This was the Falcons' first victory over Navy since 2002. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Air Force defenders swarm a Navy ball carrier during the Air Force-Navy game at Falcon Stadium, Colo., Oct. 2, 2010. Air Force won, 14-6, for its first victory over Navy since 2002. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Junior quarterback Tim Jefferson hands the ball off to senior running back Jared Tew as Air Force defeated Navy 14-6 at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 2, 2010.  This was the Falcons' first victory over Navy since 2002. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson hands off to running back Jared Tew in Air Force's 14-6 victory over Navy at Falcon Stadium, Colo., Oct. 2, 2010. This was the Falcons' first victory over Navy since 2002. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Falcons face their second real test of the 2011 football season Oct. 1 when they play Navy in Annapolis, Md., at noon Eastern Time.

On the line is the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, which Air Force reclaimed after stunning Navy 14-6 at Falcon Stadium in 2010.

It's never easy to predict the outcome of this game ahead of time. While Navy has defeated Air Force in eight of the last 10 meetings, the final scores have generally differed by fewer than 10 points -- the only exceptions in 2002 (Air Force, 48-7) and 2007 (Navy, 31-20).

The Falcons can and should win this game, but it will be an uphill battle. Missed assignments and turnovers kept the South Dakota Coyotes in the running for an upset in the second half of the first week's game and cost Air Force dearly in a 35-19 loss to No. 21 TCU in Week 2.

Navy allowed eight turnovers in its first two games of the season, but the Middies played solid enough football to scare No. 10 South Carolina in a 24-21 Week 3 loss at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

Navy had a bye last week and will come into the game rested and with home-field advantage. Air Force has six players on the injury roster, including defenders Patrick Hennessy and Zach Payne, who are not expected to play until November if they take the field at all this season.

CBS will televise the game. Radio stations carrying the game include KVOR 740 AM in Colorado Springs and KCKK 1510 AM in Denver. The Air Force Falcons website will also carry the game online.

AIR FORCE WILL WIN IF:

-- They score first. Air Force can quiet the crowd by putting points on the board before the Midshipmen. The prognosis worsens if Navy takes an early lead: since 2009, the Falcons have gone 4-10 when opponents score first, compared to a perfect 14-0 when they score first.
-- The defense steps up. With Hennessy and Payne out for most of the season, the Falcons will rely more on seniors Jon Davis, Anthony Wright and Brady Amack as well as fledgling playmakers like Jamil Cooks and Chris Miller. If they can get to Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor or beat his receivers to the ball, it'll be a long day for the Midshipmen.
-- The offense controls the ball. Air Force has held onto the ball better than Navy so far this season, but not by much. The Falcons enter this game with a turnover ratio of minus-two. If they don't reverse that trend in Annapolis, Navy will roll away with the win -- and the trophy.