Game Time: 3:00 p.m., Saturday, September 7
Location: McLane Stadium, Waco, TX
TV: Fox Sports Networks
Radio: Ticket 760 AM
Live Stats: GoUTSA
Series Record: Tied 1-1
Last Meeting: Baylor used an onside kick and a running back pass to secure a 37-20 win in the fourth quarter.
Betting Line: Baylor -26, O/U 57.5
Baylor Seeks to Gain Series Dominance Over UTSA
Matt Rhule’s Bears come into the week fresh off a decisive 56-17 victory over a rebuilding Stephen F. Austin team. The score shows a blowout, but the game was even less competitive than the scoreboard depicted. Baylor wasn’t perfect, but they probably could have hung 70+ on the Lumberjacks if they wanted to.
Baylor and UTSA have come to know each other quite well over the past couple of years. The Roadrunners first met Baylor as the Bears were at their lowest point. Following a major exodus from the program after Art Briles’ dismissal, the Roadrunners were able to take advantage of a depleted roster to earn their first and only win over a Power 5 program back in 2017. The Bears would strike back in 2018 to even the series, and aim to earn a lead in the series this weekend.
Charlie Brewer has emerged as a steady, talented hand at quarterback for the Bears. While terrific receivers like Denzel Mims and R.J. Sneed make his job much easier, Brewer has taken this Baylor offense to the next level.
Baylor’s strongest position unit on offense is certainly their running backs. JaMycal Hasty has elite speed, John Lovett is a powerful and nimble runner, while Trestan Ebner is elusive and sudden in his movements. All three will be a major part of Baylor’s offensive game plan.
The Bears bring back a lot of experience on the offensive line, however, some starters are playing new positions this year. They didn’t allow any sacks against SFA, but there was more pressure on Brewer than one would expect. UTSA might be able to disrupt Baylor’s backfield if the offensive line isn’t significantly improved from last week.
Defensively, Baylor is working out the rough edges on a new defensive system. The Bears will use multiple fronts and won’t shy away from using differing personnel packages to bring more coverage or pass rushing skills onto the field as needed.
Each play for the Roadrunners should start with the offense identifying where defensive end James Lockhart is lined up. The Texas A&M transfer has the ability to take over a game and will be a big challenge for UTSA’s offensive tackles Josh Dunlop and Treyvion Shannon.
330-pound nose tackle Bravvion Roy will also be a handful for UTSA center Ahofitu Maka. At 320 pounds himself, the interior of the line will resemble some type of sumo match as Maka grapples with Roy for supremacy.
This is what UTSA is going to have to deal with against Baylor this week. Brewer rolls out of the pocket, bombs it 50 yards downfield without getting set pic.twitter.com/baL4Qvp07R— Alamodome Audible (@AlamoAudible) September 2, 2019
UTSA Seeks to Ride Frank Harris to New Heights
The biggest question heading into this season for the Roadrunners was whether or not new Offensive Coordinator Jeff Kastl could find a way to revitalize this offense and put some points on the board. So far so good.
In his collegiate debut, quarterback Frank Harris completed 78% of his passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Harris also set the UTSA single-game record for rushing yards from a quarterback with 123 yards. Despite being nearly three years removed from game action, Harris looked extremely composed as he hit 11 different receivers, often settling for checkdown options instead of forcing the ball into tight windows.
While Harris was spectacular last week, his receivers will need to step up if UTSA is going to have a chance at upsetting Baylor. UTSA’s receivers dropped two sure touchdown passes and didn’t generate enough separation to feel comfortable moving into FBS competition.
Expect UTSA to lean heavily on their running backs and tight ends in both the run and pass game this week. Twenty-three of Harris’ completions against UIW went to running backs or tight ends but that could have to change this week if Baylor loads the box.
UTSA’s offensive line will also need to improve as they had limited success in opening up holes in the run game and allowed a decent amount of pressure when dropping back to pass. Obviously, Baylor’s defensive linemen are much more athletic than Incarnate Word’s, so UTSA will need to clean up communication issues this week if they’re to have any hope of competing.
Defensively, UTSA actually gave up less yards in week one (209) than any other Division I unit. The Roadrunners’ steady rotation along the defensive line kept them fresh as the Cardinals were held to just 1.4 yards per rush.
Converted safeties Andrew Martel and Ladarian McFarland will have their first major test as linebackers this week as they’ll be forced to respond to the physicality that a Power Five program can bring to the tackle box. UTSA will need to hope their defensive front can keep blockers from getting to the second level.
UTSA’s secondary will likely be the determining factor as to whether this game turns into a blowout or not. The Roadrunners’ young secondary performed quite well against UIW, but Baylor brings an entirely different level of speed out wide.
I think UTSA will have a solid showing against Baylor, but won’t be able to do much more than cover the spread. The Bears are a rapidly improving program and should beat the Roadrunners with their bench depth down the stretch.
With the game kicking off at 3 p.m., heat and hydration will definitely be factors. If UTSA can come out of this game in good health and confidence then it’ll be an acceptable outcome.
UTSA 21 Baylor 45