The 2021 Frisco Bowl is bound to be one for the ages. For the first time in the bowl’s history, a conference championship participant is featured — and not just one, but two. Another first for this bowl involves the presence of ranked teams. UTSA (12-1, 7-1 C-USA) is currently situated No. 24 in the AP Poll while San Diego State (11-2, 7-1 Mountain West) clings to the No. 24 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The similar résumés between the Roadrunners and Aztecs suggest the most anticipated Frisco Bowl in history is bound to be a close one. Although UTSA opened as the favorite, DraftKings currently favors the Aztecs by 3 points and lists the point total as 39.5*.
* Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
On Monday morning, head coaches Jeff Traylor and Brady Hoke, as well as several key players, took to the podium to discuss the upcoming Frisco Bowl matchup:
Differing bowl histories
One of these programs is no stranger to bringing home postseason hardware. San Diego State is a fixture of bowl season and the Aztecs have participated in the postseason every year since 2010, save for a pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
That streak initiated with head coach Brady Hoke, who in 2010, led San Diego State to its first bowl appearance since 1998. Hoke won that Poinsettia Bowl over Navy, departed to become the head coach at Michigan, and returned to his alma mater last year. Now, he’s reliving his own legacy of building a sustainable winning culture at San Diego State.
“I think number one it’s not the coach, it’s the players. It’s the guys you recruit, the character of the guys and I think the coaching staff itself,” Hoke said on the Aztecs’ decade of success. “I’m really proud of the guys we have on this staff that have mentored and helped build and helped guys learn life lessons and how to play the great game of football.”
While San Diego State has won five bowl games since 2010, including Hoke’s Poinsettia Bowl, UTSA has not climbed a similar mountaintop. The Roadrunners moved to the FBS level in 2012 and are bound to participate in just their third bowl game. This time, they’re hoping for a different result and become the first-ever UTSA team to bring home a bowl trophy.
“That is something we have discussed quite a lot,” head coach Jeff Traylor said. “You know, when the season started I said, ‘Someone is going to be the first team in UTSA history to win the West; why not us?’ We checked that box. And then someone is going to be the first team in UTSA history to win a conference championship; why not us? We checked that box. There is going to be a team, somebody, whether it’s this team or someone else, that is going to win their first bowl game; why not us?”
A virtual home game for UTSA
It’s the fourth iteration of the Frisco Bowl, and this time, attendance is expected to be at an all-time high. SMU and Louisiana Tech brought 14,419 spectators in during the inaugural game in 2017. But UTSA’s presence in an in-state bowl is slated to lure in thousands of San Antonians to drive roughly five hours to Frisco, TX.
“I heard that the stadium is sold out and that the majority of tickets are Roadrunner fans,” strong safety Rashad Wisdom said. “So, I think we need to just keep doing what we have all season which is get loud and rowdy and try to go finish out the season strong.”
In the midst of an unparalleled 12-1 season featuring a C-USA championship, UTSA is currently an attractive draw. The Roadrunners expanded seating in the Alamodome for the Roadrunners’ final two home games and earned their highest attendance numbers of the season — a crunch-time win over UAB (35,167) and a thrilling C-USA Championship Game shootout victory over WKU (41,148). With each win and with each packed stadium, the reputation of the rising program grows each day.
“(Strong safety Rashad Wisdom and quarterback Frank Harris) here are a great example. They’re both San Antonio kids and the reason they stayed here was to try to put the city of San Antonio on the map other than for the Spurs, for a football team,” Traylor said. “That’s been our mission since I took the job in December of 2019, to help these kids accomplish their mission which was to make us a nationally known football team. We’re the seventh largest city in the country, we have an amazing university that just built us an amazing $41 million facility. Everyone knows about the Riverwalk. We feel like this will not be a blip in the radar. We plan on being here for a while.”
However, in a crowd likely dominated by blue and orange, one San Diego State player feels the home atmosphere. Outside linebacker Caden McDonald played his high school ball at Northwest High in Haslet, TX — another suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. McDonald will feel the love from his friends and family at the game, as he prepares for his second Frisco Bowl of his collegiate career.
“I’m fortunate enough that three of the last four bowl games have been within 45 minutes of home. So that’s really a blessing to be able to come home for my last game of the season,” McDonald said. “I get to have all of my friends, family, old coaches, a ton of people in the stands that don’t always get the opportunity because San Diego is so far away. When I get to come home and play in front of them, it really means the world to me to get to do what I love in front of them. All of those people in the stands played a role in getting me to where I’m at today. So, to do that in front of them and for them to be able to support me, it really means a lot.”