AP NEWS

No. 24 Air Force faces Washington State in Cheez-It Bowl

December 26, 2019 GMT

Cheez-It Bowl: No. 24 Air Force (10-2, 7-1 Mountain West) vs. Washington State (6-6, 3-6 Pac-12), Friday at 10:15 p.m. EST (ESPN).

Line: Air Force by 2 1/2.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Air Force is looking to finish with 11 victories in a season for the first time since going 12-1 in 1998. Washington State is hoping to close strong in a season that started with a No. 23 preseason ranking in the AP Top 25 and fizzled midway through with a string of five losses in six games. The bowl will feature a wide disparity in styles: the Falcons and their triple option against the Cougars and their Air Raid offense.

KEY MATCHUP

Air Force’s defense vs. Washington State QB Anthony Gordon. A senior, Gordon made the most of his lone season as the Cougars’ starter, leading the nation with a Pac-12-record 5,228 yards passing and 45 TDs. The Falcons were decent against the pass this season, finishing 39th in the FBS but have faced nothing like what Washington State does.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Air Force: QB Donald Hammond III. Hammond is the Falcons’ fourth-leading rusher (491 yards) and leads the team with 11 rushing TDs. What makes him so dangerous is his ability to pass; the junior threw for 1,286 yards and 13 TDs this season.

Washington State: WR Easop Winston Jr. Washington State is loaded with top-tier receivers, but Winston may be the most dangerous. The senior led the Cougars with 11 TDs and had 80 catches for 927 yards.

FACTS & FIGURES

Air Force was ranked this season for the first since 2010 and enters a bowl game ranked for the first time since 1998. ... Washington State led the nation with 444.3 yards passing per game, was sixth in total offense at 516.8 yards and 11th in scoring at 39.2 points. ... The Falcons have allowed four sacks this season, fewest in the nation. ... Cougars RB Max Borghi led the Pac-12 with 6.5 yards per carry rushing. .... Air Force led the nation in passing efficiency at 203.7. ... Washington State K Black Mazza made his first 18 field goal attempts this season and finished 20 of 21 to become a finalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker.

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