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Quinn Nordin kicks No. 7 Michigan past Air Force

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Freshman kicker Quinn Nordin kicked a school-record five field goals to help No. 7 Michigan (3-0) overcome red zone deficiencies in a hard-fought 29-13 victory against Air Force (1-1) Saturday afternoon in Michigan Stadium.

For the third straight week, Michigan’s offense continued to sputter at best, leaving some questions for the Wolverines as they prepare to enter Big Ten play next week. Michigan managed to score just one touchdown against the Falcons, and the Wolverines really showed some warts trying to move the ball. Give Air Force credit for the defensive effort they presented, but Michigan only converted three of 11 third-down attempts and was unable to score a touchdown on any of their four red zone trips. It may not have cost Michigan a win today, but at some point, that trend cannot continue if the Wolverines are going to make a run for the Big Ten championship this fall.

Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight was never pulled from the game, but his day was far from impressive as the leader of a Michigan offense still trying to find itself three weeks into the season. Play calling lacked creativity at times as well, but that just means there is room for improvement for Jim Harbaugh and his squad. Fortunately for Michigan, they have a kicker who continues to be automatic from any distance early on and the defense continues to rise to the occasion.

Air Force did find something to work with in the second half as they worked to tire down Michigan’s defense using their trademark option attack, but the Wolverines proved to have the decisive edge anytime Air Force tried to mix things up using their speed. Michigan was just faster. On a fourth-quarter drive, with Air Force trailing 22-13, a promising drive was thwarted when the Falcons tried running Timothy McVey to the right side. The Wolverines gobbled him up behind the line of scrimmage inside the red zone and Air Force kicker Luke Strebel sailed a field goal attempt wide left. Air Force probably needed to get a touchdown on the drive anyway, but the missed field goal midway through the fourth quarter felt like a near knockout blow for an Air Force offense not known for quick drives.

Michigan now enters Big Ten play looking to finish what they failed to do a year ago; win the Big Ten East Division, and perhaps the Big Ten championship. The defense is locked in for the job. Next week, the Wolverines head to Purdue to take on a Boilermaker team that has looked like a new program this season under new head coach Jeff Brohm. Purdue is playing at Missouri today and has already pushed Louisville into the fourth quarter. Can Michigan avoid an upset next week?

Air Force will return home for a big Mountain West Conference game against San Diego State. The Aztecs will be coming off a home game against Stanford.

Michigan’s red zone concerns growing vs. Air Force

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Michigan may have one of the top defense sin the nation, if not just the Big Ten, but offensive worries are not hiding in Ann Arbor this afternoon. Michigan leads Air Force, 9-6, but have had to settle for two field goals on each of their two red zone trips.

Michigan took the game’s opening possession into the red zone but could not get past the Air Force 17-yard line before settling for a Quinn Nordin field goal. The Wolverines then fumbled away the football on their next offensive series when Chris Evans fumbled away a nine-yard gain. Air Force also took advantage by working their way into the red zone before Arion Worthman took a bad sack for a loss of 13 from the seven-yard line. That meant the Falcons had to settle for a field goal inside the red zone as well.

On the ensuing possession, Michigan again moved their way into the red zone, but Air Force stood tall and held Michigan to no gain from a 1st and Goal from the nine-yard line on the next three plays. Nordin again came out for his second field goal. Nordin added a third field goal just before halftime to give Michigan the lead.

The Wolverines entered the game with the Big Ten’s worst red zone touchdown percentage at 16.7 percent, roughly half of the percentage Rutgers has had early on this season. Michigan may find a way out of this game at home, but that is going to be a key area to focus on moving forward regardless of what happens in the second half.

LOOK: Air Force helmets modeled after helmets F-35 fighter pilots wear

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I don’t care who you root for, but Air Force’s new lids are more bad-ass than the ones your team wears.

Monday, Air Force unveiled a new helmet as part of the ongoing “Airpower Legacy Series” that’s modeled after the helmets F-35 fighter pilots wear in flight.  A matching uniform will be unveiled at a later date.

Additionally, just when the new helmet/uniform combination will be used during a game will be announced at a later time as well.

Troy Calhoun has the worst College Football Playoff expansion idea yet

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There is nothing wrong with trying to think of ways for a sport or a product to improve. Sometimes that means spitballing ideas on a board just to see what sticks. Most of the time, those ideas thrown around will be complete garbage, such as Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun‘s idea to improve the College Football Playoff if/when it expands to an eight-team format.

Calhoun’s idea for the College Football Playoff is to expand to eight teams with each power conference champion receiving an automatic bid, two wild card slots and one guaranteed bid for the best Group of Five conference champion. If it were just that, Calhoun has my support as this is the exact outline I have advocated. But it is how Calhoun wants the Group of Five team to be selected for the guaranteed spot.

Calhoun wants a four-team playoff between Group of Five programs to determine the final College Football Playoff spot.

That, folks, is a horrible idea.

“I think it would, really, bring a wholeness that would be splendid for the spirit of college football,” Calhoun said, according to The Gazette.

No, stop it. Why should the Group of Five have to play additional games on top of their 12-13 game schedule that includes a conference championship game (the Sun Belt will begin playing a championship game in 2018), two more postseason games just to get into the College Football Playoff? That schedule would be brutal, not to mention the wear-and-tear on players playing for programs that lag behind the state-of-the-art facilities the power conference programs have.

Let’s take Navy, for example.

Let’s say the Midshipmen play for and win the AAC Championship. They then go on to play Army the following week in the annual Army-Navy Game. Immediately after that, I assume, they would have to play a semifinal Group of Five playoff game. Win that, and they play again the next week for the Group of Five spot in the College Football Playoff. That leaves little recovery and prep time for their first College Football Playoff opponent, which likely has to be played the following week before the semifinals are played New Years weekend.

Navy may be the extreme scenario, but regardless of what team you use as an example, the overall result is the same. You can’t make cases to improve player safety and have a playoff just to get into a playoff.

I applaud your willingness to think outside the box, Troy Calhoun, but this plan still needs some major retooling.

In wake of Bob Stoops’ retirement, thought of not being part of a team scares Nick Saban

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With the reverberations of Bob Stoops‘ shocking retirement announcement Wednesday still being felt, some attention has turned to just which long-tenured head coach could be next to step away from the profession.

At the moment, there are currently head coaches who have been at the same program for at least the last 10 consecutive years — Rice’s David Bailiff (2007), Air Force’s Troy Calhoun (2007), Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio (2007), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (1999), Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (2006), Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy (2005), Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo (2007), TCU’s Gary Patterson (2000), Alabama’s Nick Saban (2007), Ohio’s Frank Solich (2005), Middle Tennessee State’s Rick Stockstill (2006) and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham (2005).  Of the Power Five coaches in that group, the oldest, as well as most successful, is Saban, who’ll turn 66 in late October this year.

Saban is in the midst of what will be a Hall of Fame career that stretches back 45 years, the past 27 as a head coach.  Given his age and the ever-growing demands of the profession, it’s natural to wonder how long until the winner of five national championships hangs up his coaching whistle.

As for that particular subject, the coach himself doesn’t seem to even want to think about a future that doesn’t include him on the sidelines.

In the full article from Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News, Saban expounded on his coaching future and the “r” word.

“I don’t think that anybody can not have those thoughts,” the coach told the News. “But my thought is that I want to do it as long as I feel like I can do it. I really enjoy being around the players. I really enjoy trying to create value for them and their future whether it’s their personal development, seeing them graduate, seeing them develop as football players and have opportunities in life.”

Saban and Stoops and Stoops’ family — there’s a great story HERE about Saban and one of Stoops’ uncles in a Youngstown bar that was robbed — have been friends for more than four decades. Could Stoops’ abrupt decision to step away from the game have an impact on Saban, who earlier this signed off on a contract extension through the 2024 season? That’s unlikely as it seems that Saban has at least a few more good years left in him.

Then again, before Wednesday, most would’ve said the same for the 56-year-old Stoops.