Date: Saturday, November 13, 2021
Time: 2:30 PM (CT), 3:30 PM (ET)
Location: Alamodome; San Antonio, Texas
Radio: Ticket 760 AM (UTSA)
Providers: (web) www.plus.espn.com; ESPN App
(Radio) iHeartRadio app (UTSA); TuneIn app (Southern Miss)
UTSA (9-0), Conference USA (5-0). Last game: win over UTEP 44-23
Southern Miss (1-8), Conference USA (0-5). Last game: loss to North Texas 14-38
Southern Miss leads the series with UTSA 4-3
There are 129 FBS teams that play across 10 conferences. However, National exposure, recruiting, and budget all favor the P5 conferences, leaving the G5 conferences to be labeled underdogs.
Case in point—the college playoff football rankings, which were formally released on November 2 and will determine which four teams will be selected for the college football playoff. The initial rankings saw only three G5 teams ranked in the top-25: Cincinnati, Fresno State, and San Diego State. Cincinnati was the highest G5 team ranked, debuting at number 6 despite a perfect 8-0 record and behind three P5 teams that had all lost one game. Meanwhile, Mississippi State and Wisconsin—both P5 teams—were ranked despite having 3 losses on their season.
Why does this matter? Because the UTSA Roadrunners, a G5 team who were also a perfect 8-0, were left out of the initial rankings. The same UTSA Roadrunners that were ranked 16 in the AP poll and 18 in the Coaches Poll. In fact, out of six unbeaten teams only UTSA was left off the CFP poll. UTSA, the underdog with only 10 years of college football experience to its name, was simply forgotten.
This preview is not a condemnation nor a rebuke of the ranking system—those criticisms and critiques have already been written. It is, instead, an illustration of the monumental success the Roadrunners have had during this 2021 football season given the hurdles and lack of public perception they had to overcome as a young and relatively unknown G5 program.
After beating the UTEP Miners on national television, the Roadrunners debuted at #23 and have completed the 3-poll sweep of top-25 rankings. The Roadrunners are one of four undefeated teams remaining in the country and are playing the best football of their season. The national spotlight has finally taken appropriate notice.
It is an understatement to say that UTSA is simply “good.” It would be an even greater offense to say that the Roadrunners are lucky. This 2021 UTSA team playing some of the most exciting football in the nation.
There is very little the Roadrunners do not do well and there is not much to say that has not been said before. In C-USA, they are third-best in overall offense, third-best in overall defense, and second-best in overall special teams play. No other team in C-USA boasts a top-five ranking in multiple categories.
Quarterback Frank Harris is playing the best football in his collegiate career. He eclipsed 2,000 passing yards against UTEP last week and has thrown 18 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Harris has also averaged an 85+ quarterback rating for the past four weeks. He is capable of torching a defense through the air just as he is on the ground, as evidenced by his 76-yard and two touchdown ground performance against UTEP. In summary, Harris is playing like a quarterback that one would expect would be leading a top-25 team.
Meanwhile, Sincere McCormick has continued to show why he is considered one of the best running backs in the conference. He passed the 1,000-yard mark against UTEP and averages a solid 6.1 yards per touch in conference play. He shows no sign of fatigue or exhaustion despite his workload after breaking off a 75-yard touchdown run last week on the second play from scrimmage.
The offense just continues to score whether it is through Harris or McCormick.
On defense, the Roadrunners give up less than 20 points per game and have yet to give up 1,000 rushing yards total on the season. In fact, the Roadrunners have been so good at stopping the run that last week was the first time all season that they have given up a 20+-yard rushing play. The only real issue UTSA has is pass coverage, giving up nearly 254 yards per game.
It is hard to score against the Roadrunners and even harder to prevent the Roadrunners from scoring. And given the team’s recent play on field, that should not change on Saturday.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Southern Miss are usually reasonably competitive in C-USA West. Last year’s 3-7 finish and this year’s 1-8 start tell a different story. The Golden Eagles are having a historically poor season. It is almost certainly their worst season since UTSA joined C-USA in 2013.
It is Will Hall’s first season as head coach and he has a lot he needs to figure out for Southern Miss’s future. The Golden Eagles rank last in offensive output; they are the only C-USA team yet to eclipse 3,000 total yards of offense and average less than 14 points a game.
The defense has faired a bit better, but have shown significant regression in recent weeks. The Golden Eagles have given up over 30 points in their last three games and over 500 yards in two of those games. Although one of those games was against the UAB Blazers, who will challenge UTSA for the C-USA West crown, the other two were against North Texas and Middle Tennessee who are also struggling this season.
Much of the Golden Eagles’ struggles comes from inexperience. Both quarterback Jake Lange and running back Frank Gore Jr. are freshman. Frank Gore Jr. is the name to watch on offense, as he is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and has amassed 608 total yards. However, he has not been a scoring threat, with only 1 touchdown on the season so far. Lange only has 843 yards on the season and has 5 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. In Lange’s defense, he is the third different starting quarterback the Golden Eagles have used and one of seven quarterbacks currently listed on Southern Miss’ roster.
Southern Miss should improve as Gore and Lange continue to grow but for now the Golden Eagles will have to settle for the growing pains in lieu of wins.
There are always games that defy expectations, where the favored team is upset or nearly-upset by a weaker opponent. That happened to multiple teams last week that were ranked in the top-25 in the CFP poll.
This will likely not be one of those games. The Roadrunners have yet to show that they are unprepared on any given Saturday, and head coach Jeff Traylor continues to stress to his team not to “eat the cheese” during this season. UTSA is the more experienced team and playing its best football of the season. Coupled with a potential home crowd of over 30,000 in the Alamodome and it becomes that much harder for an inexperienced team like Southern Miss to pull off the upset.
UTSA 45, Southern Miss 7