Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Kick Off: 6 pm, Saturday, September 8th
Stream: CBS Sports Facebook page (no account required)
Live Stats: Side Arm Stats
Audio: Ticket 760
Betting Odds: Baylor -15.5, O/U 51
Series Record: UTSA leads 1-0
Last Meeting: UTSA earned their first win over a Power 5 program with a 17-10 final score.
Baylor Bears Outlook
Roadrunner fans that didn’t tune in to a Baylor game following last year’s meeting may be surprised to see major changes for the Bears. After starting quarterback Anu Solomon retired from football, freshman phenom Charlie Brewer took the reigns and reshaped the Bears’ offense from a 22 personnel pro-style attack to a more modern spread look that featured a lot of run-pass options.
Baylor still looks similar schematically on defense but a year of growth and recruiting has worked wonders to get athletes into more comfortable roles. It’s going to take another year for Matt Rhule’s program to fully recover from the mess Art Briles left behind but the Bears are progressing at a fairly positive rate.
Much like UTSA, Baylor is expected to play two quarterbacks on Saturday. Charlie Brewer left last week’s win against Abilene Christian with some minor back pain, opening up a window for NC State graduate transfer Jalan McCLendon to put on a show. McClendon posted a 239.48 QB rating as he connected on 77% of his passes.
Regardless of who gets the most snaps under center, the Bears have a ton of playmakers to get the ball to. Running backs John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty return after rushing for over 700 combined yards last season.
Paving the way for the running backs will be an offensive line that finally has some veteran presence. This offensive line probably doesn’t contain many future NFL stars but if redshirt freshman Eleasah Anderson can hold down the left tackle spot in his first start then the Bears should be able to slow down UTSA’s defensive line.
It will likely be the strength of Baylor’s receivers that turns the tide of this game. Between Denzel Mims, Chris Platt, and former Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd, the Bears have three game breakers to choose from. UTSA will have their hands full trying to cover these guys after struggling with Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry last week.
UTSA Roadrunners Outlook
Most expected UTSA to struggle out of the gate this season. The Roadrunners lost both coordinators and a ton of production on both sides of the ball. Even with moderate expectations set, UTSA’s first game of the season was even worse than I think the biggest skeptic could imagine. After the deflating debut, Frank Wilson will attempt to rally his troops to bounce back at home in the second of three straight Power Five matchups to start the season.
Neither Cordale Grundy nor DJ Gillins played well enough to put the quarterback battle under wraps but it seems like Grundy will be the guy moving forward. Grundy continued to show a more calm pocket presence and better decision making, although he threw a pick six and had a costly fumble. I think Grundy should have a much better outing at home after getting his first Division I snaps under his belt.
UTSA will likely be without their starting running back Jalen Rhodes this week due to injury. Sophomore BJ Daniels and true freshman Brenden Brady will carry the load — both athletic backs that are looking for their first runs of over 10 yards as Roadrunners.
With all five starters either getting their first playing time or trying their hand at a new position, the Roadrunners’ offensive line struggled with assignments and communication against the Sun Devils’ exotic 3-3-5 defensive scheme. After a week of learning from their mistakes, the Roadrunners should improve in these areas. Whether or not it will be enough improvement to get the offense chugging along remains to be seen.
The Roadrunners’ struggle on offense hardly came as a surprise but the defense’s shortcomings were concerning. UTSA’s outside linebacker position was a black hole as ASU running back Eno Benjamin was able to rack up big yardage by simply running to the side of the field Josiaha Tauaefa wasn’t manning.
UTSA tackled poorly, played out of position, never got to the quarterback, and failed to generate a turnover. That’s not the UTSA defense I remember from 2017. Will the Roadrunners bounce back at home or is the regression from last year’s performance going to be even more precipitous than anticipated?
Last week was a trainwreck for UTSA but I’m not convinced it was an accurate depiction of what this team is truly capable of. The offense should move the ball better and the defense won’t look as lost as they did against Arizona State.
That being said, Baylor has made some very nice strides over the past year and I think they’ll be eager to prove that UTSA’s win last year was a fluke. The Bears’ injury report continues to pile up but I think their talent at wide receiver is simply too much for the Roadrunners to contain.
I can see the Bears taking the win but UTSA fans walking away with some optimism that their team will be able to compete in Conference USA this season.
Baylor 44 UTSA 21