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I-35 Showdown Roundtable

UTSA and Texas State meet up to see who can suck less for one Saturday this fall.

NCAA Football: Texas State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday two struggling programs will meet up in a rivalry game in an attempt to get their seasons on track. Even despite both teams playing sub-optimal football, anticipation for the meeting is still running high as students on both sides of the rivalry have taken to scrawling trash talk on bed sheets outside of their houses.

To get a pulse on both sides of the rivalry, alumni on both sides of the trenches got together for a round table discussion around the state of the rivalry and what it could look like going forward. Check back at the end of the work week for our full game preview.

With UTSA and Texas State both off to pretty terrible starts to the season, have you noticed any downturn in fan anticipation for this week’s game?

Vidal (Texas State) - I feel like the rivalry game has been magnified more than last year mainly because both teams are looking for that spark to right the ship and also it’s the first game in which we see most of the same players as last year returning. There is a lot of the usual smack talk on twitter but as a whole most Bobcats are hyped up for some revenge.

Jared (UTSA) - It feels like things are much more subdued this year. Both teams seem to have little faith in their team’s ability to get the W. I haven’t seen any smack talk about football — it’s all the typical academics/sexual promiscuity garbage that most collegiate rivalries devolve to. Pretty discouraging but I get it. Hopefully the two programs are winning football games the next time the series rolls around for another iteration.

Adrian (UTSA) - It’s a lot easier to be excited going into a rivalry game 2-0 rather than 0-3, and I think it’s shown. Last year it seemed like anticipation was bubbling immediately on the Monday morning before the game, whereas this year it seems like both fan bases are dragging themselves to get excited and we’re already halfway through the week. That said, I think the younger, active student base is still equally as giddy for the matchup. It’s more of the alumni that are lacking hype, but it’s warranted.

As an alumnus, is the I-35 Showdown personally important to you? Do you enjoy the football season less without the game on the schedule?

Vidal - Since the 2012 game I’ve been slowly warming up to the idea of having a adversary right down the highway. I actually like all “hate week” sheet wars going around on social media. If you have a sense of humor and a love for football hype it comes across as the kind of rivalry game that both schools need. I look forward to some good ol’ fashion smack talk and sharing a couple of brews at the tailgate with some friendly Roadrunners.

Jared - It’s very important for me but probably not in the way that other fans appreciate it. I’m not big on the “hate” aspect of the rivalry. I think San Marcos is a pretty cool little town, I love my friends that went to Texas State, and I bet I would have really enjoyed being a Bobcat had life worked out that way. Instead I love the rivalry because it’s the only time every year where my friends and I can really chop it up and talk football the way alumni from larger rival programs do.

Adrian - I think for a whole lot of people, myself included, it matters tremendously. This year I think it’s even more important considering the winless record; “As long we as beat Texas State” is becoming a mantra. Personally, I love it because UTSA and Texas State are one in the same. High school friend groups essentially split down the middle to attend one or the other, and the bond between the two is undeniable. It’s by far the funnest week of the year.

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Kansas State
Cassius Grady breaks up a pass against Kansas State.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Should this game be added later to the schedule sort of how a lot of rivalry games are or even played around Thanksgiving similar to the defunct UT-Austin/A&M game?

Vidal - There is the good and bad for a late-season rivalry game. It would be a good idea if say we were in the same division and a late season conference game could make or break a championship title. Bad of course is the fact that unless bowl implications were on the line the I-35 game should stay in September/early October.

Jared - Only if the two teams reconvene in the same conference, something I view as inevitable. I don’t like late-season out of conference games as it feels like it breaks the flow of the season. If a team is competing for a division championship then every step in November should count towards that goal in a direct manner.

Adrian - I side with Jared on this, I’m not a fan of late out-of-conference games on the schedule. I’m okay with the game being mid-October at the absolute latest, or on Halloween weekend every year similar to how UTSA and UNT used to schedule, that could be a riot. It’s best at the front end of the schedule because it serves really well for hyping up fans early in the season.

If Texas State and UTSA were to join the same conference again do you think it would make the rivalry game more or less special? Obviously the stakes would be even higher but the games would occur more frequently which could devalue things.

Vidal - If Texas State had any in-state rivals, let alone UTSA, that would be awesome. It does make it more special not only for conference supremacy but bragging rights.

Jared - I think it would be more special because it would increase the focus on Olympic sports. The football games would be even more heated if the two teams were playing important games in other sports in the months proceeding the football. It increases the feeling of a meeting being a “revenge” game.

Adrian - Everything would be worth higher stakes, and in that regard the rivalry would be fiercer than ever. Sure there’s a level of anticipation surrounding how sporadically it occurs now, but conference play would trump that in my opinion.

UTSA owns a 2-0 lead in this series. If that increases to 3-0 this week do you think that puts additional pressure on Everett Withers to make a bowl game this year? Fair to expect his dismissal if he loses to UTSA and fails to reach a bowl game in year three?

Vidal - I honestly don’t think a loss to UTSA puts any pressure on Withers because there is no pressure for him to reach a bowl game in 2018, at least in the eyes of school officials. I think they are going the whole five years with his rebuild whether or not he reaches the pinnacle this year. The only way I think he gets the boot before his contract is up is if he goes 2-10 in 2019 or starts out winless five games into 2019 and is fired immediately.

Jared - Nah. I’ve seen enough progression from this program over the past two years to think that Wither is on the right track. I know that’s hard for Texas State fans to hear but I think it’s true. Franchione left this program in the dumpster and Wither is slowly dragging it out. The talent level in San Marcos is almost back to where it needs to be. Willie Jones III and Tyler Vitt are two good quarterbacks to lead the offense. I think next year the Bobcats will reach bowl eligibility.

Adrian - I think in the current college football era the standard shelf life for a coach to start feeling his seat get warm is three years. But in Withers case, I think everyone knows he inherited a situation where that timeline just isn’t plausible. Another UTSA loss hurts, but Withers’ criticism this year will weigh moreso on seeing continuous improvement in what was originally a four or five year plan.

The “trophy” for this rivalry sucks. Any idea on something that could be better than a generic plaque?

Vidal - A trophy of the HEB Buddy mascot holding a Roadrunner in one hand and a Bobcat in the other.

Jared - I’m all in on the Golden Shopping Cart but I could settle on a bubbling queso fountain that gets rolled out to midfield after the last snap.

Adrian - Mark me down for the beloved golden shopping cart, but I could also see a giant golden solo cup or golden interstate 35 road sign.

NCAA Football: Texas State at Wyoming
Everett Withers needs to show that he’s making headway in his rebuilding effort this year.
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

What’s one area where you feel like your alma mater could see big success on Saturday?

Vidal - The tailgate, or the linebackers. But honestly if the front seven can smash up the Roadrunner run game and the secondary can (please) stop the big throws we may have a chance.

Jared - I think UTSA’s front six will rack up some tackles behind the line of scrimmage that will get Texas State off schedule. The Bobcats have yet to see a true power back like BJ Daniels this year so I think he could surprise Texas State by moving the pile after contact.

Adrian - UTSA will have a lot of success in Texas State’s backfield Saturday, I think the defense will force multiple turnovers and quick outs to make life easy for Frank Wilson’s offense.

Give me a prediction for one breakout performance from a player for your respective alma mater.

Vidal - My favorite Bobcat is wide receiver Hutch White. I think he is a gutsy jack-of-all trades who leaves it all on the field. Whether he’s running jet sweeps, throwing touchdowns or returning punts he does whatever he’s asked and does it to his fullest ability and I admire that. I’m still waiting for his signature game and it would be a great coming out party if he broke out against UTSA.

Jared - I think Tariq Woolen will have has best game as a Roadrunner. His combination of length and speed should lead to some big plays against the Texas State secondary.

Adrian - Give me wideout Greg Campbell Jr to streak on UTSA’s first deep pass. I think he’s really gained momentum in these first three games, and should be the primary target for the Roadrunners on the night. Also put me down for two sacks from defensive lineman Kevin Strong.