Date: Friday, December 2, 2022
Time: 7:30 PM ET, 6:30 PM ET
Location: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
TV: CBS Sports Network
Betting Line: UTSA -9, O/U 68.5
Series History: The series is tied 5-5, with UTSA beating North Texas back in October.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&C’s apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Head Coach Jeff Traylor took over a struggling and listless UTSA program that went 4-8 in 2019. In the three years since, Traylor and the Roadrunners have earned back-to-back 10+ win seasons and are playing for a consecutive Conference USA championship after taking the title in 2021. It is a turnaround that few college football programs have accomplished, but Traylor has the team defying expectations nonetheless. And it is exactly where Traylor wants the program to be for the students and fans in San Antonio.
UTSA are 22-4 in the last two years, have lost only one home game in that stretch, have won convincingly against opponents or snatched victory in the final seconds, and are currently #23 in the AP Poll.
“We worked hard to get that home field [advantage for the championship],” Traylor stated this week. “It’s the second consecutive championship at home. This is hard to do.
The Roadrunners are more than capable of winning on Friday, having beaten North Texas already just six weeks ago. But this time UTSA will be without two starters who were critical to that victory. Senior running back Brendan Brady and Senior wide receiver De’Corian “JT” Clark are out with season-ending injuries and will not suit up for the game. Brady and Clark were responsible for three touchdowns against North Texas, with Brady rushing the ball for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns and Clark catching the ball for 54 yards and the game-winning score in the final 20 seconds of the game. In their place UTSA has relied on freshman running back Kevorian Barnes and senior wide receiver Tykee Ogle-Kellogg, respectively. Both have stepped up successfully so far and will be especially needed against an aggressive North Texas defense on Friday.
The UTSA offense ultimately succeeds on the talent of senior quarterback Frank Harris. who set career records in 2022. He threw for over 3,500 yards, rushed for over 500 yards, and scored 35 touchdowns for the year despite taking more sacks than he had in 2021. Harris orchestrated the game-winning drive last week against UTEP and did the same against North Texas when the teams last met. His ability to score as a dual-threat quarterback makes Harris an elite offensive talent in C-USA, and the Roadrunners will again need him to play strong to repeat as conference champions.
The UTSA defense has also been a strength this year. Despite injuries and scheme breakdowns, the Roadrunners somehow find a way to suceed when it matters most. In the last three games UTSA all but shut down Rice and LA Tech’s offense and forced two turnovers against UTEP to help orchestrate their comeback. The defense collectively ranks second in C-USA for rushing and fourth overall while scoring the second most points.
North Texas Preview
“Really excited about this opportunity to play in the Conference USA championship,” North Texas head coach Seth Littrell said on Wednesday’s coaches call. “I’m proud of our men, the way that they’ve worked, along with the coaches, this entire season having each other’s backs. I understand that we’re playing a great opponent, the defending champs in UTSA. A matchup with a great atmosphere at the Alamodome.”
The Mean Green are obviously familiar with the atmosphere of the Alamodome. They dealt with the sights and sounds that added to the rivalry’s tension in their earlier meeting, as well as in prior contests in San Antonio. When they play UTSA in the dome, they’ve won one out of five meetings.
The 7-5 Mean Green enter this week as winners of three of their last four games. Most recently, the defense forced two turnovers against a Rice team that was one of the league’s pleasant surprises this year. Scoring 34.5 points per game has played a big part in getting North Texas to this point. Like last season, the rushing attack remains their biggest strength. Oscar Adaway, one of their better backs, has not played in a game since October 29. Thankfully for them, they still have Ayo Adeyi and Ikaika Ragsdale in the backfield, who are averaging eight and 5.3 yards per carry, respectively.
The passing attack can’t be ignored either with Austin Aune playing behind an offensive line that has only allowed 11 sacks this season.
Defensively, one of college football’s most admired journeymen and coaching veterans Phil Bennet leads the way. KD Davis leads the league in tackles with 118 total on the season. Defensive back Ridge Texada has also had an impressive season with 15 pass breakups and three interceptions. Individual accolades aside, North Texas are #121 in FBS in total defense at the moment. They will have their work cut out for them against the league’s top offense.
Joe Londergan: Despite UTSA’s injury issues this season, they’ve had a next-man-up mentality all year. I see that continuing this time out. Frank Harris will once again have plenty of options to spread the ball around in the passing attack and if the defense can hold just a few times, it should be enough. UTSA win 35-31.
Sumner Macdaniel: UTSA has scored at least 30 points in every conference game they have played this season. Frank Harris has the offense rolling and the depth has been there all season to make up for injuries. This is a rivalry game, and as last year showed it is nearly impossible to predict how these contests will turn out, but the Roadrunners have homefield advantage with a potential 40,000+ crowd plus an uncanny ability to win regardless of whether the offense or defense is lacking. It should result in UTSA’s second conference title. UTSA 34, UNT 29.