#24 San Diego State Aztecs (11-2) vs UTSA Roadrunners (12-1)
When: Tuesday, December 21st. Kick off is set for 4:30 pm PT
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas.
How to Watch: ESPN
The Conference USA Champions (UTSA) will take on the Mountain West Conference runner-up (SDSU) in the 2021 Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
This years Frisco Bowl will be played at Toyota Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium that has hosted the Bowl game since 2017 and holds just over 20,000 people.
The UTSA (University of Texas, San Antonio) Roadrunners capped off an incredible season with a conference championship win over Western Kentucky on December 3rd.
UTSA has been a program for just 11 years and has now captured their first title and broke many school records including their 10 game win streak at home. A loss to North Texas to end the regular season was the only negative part of the 12 win season for UTSA.
They reached the AP College Football rankings at #24 this season which is impressive; it was certainly the best season in program history. The Roadrunners will look to cap off this historical season with their first ever bowl game win.
San Diego State, currently ranked #24 in the College Football Playoff rankings, also had a historical season. In 99 years of football at SDSU, their have been four 11 win seasons; 1966, 1969, 2015 and now 2021. They started the year 7-0 before losing to Fresno State in Week 8 before going on a run to beat four Mountain West opponents to punch their ticket to the Mountain West Championship, only to fall short.
A heartbreaking blow-out loss to Mountain division winner Utah State in the Mountain West Championship was the damper on SDSU’s season, but the Aztecs should be proud with what they accomplished.
The Aztecs have reached a bowl game 11 times in the last 12 seasons, including 10 in a row from 2010-2019 and played in the second-ever Frisco Bowl game in 2018, getting shut out by Ohio University, 27-0. Overall, they have a record of 9-9 in Bowl game history and hope to get a win on Tuesday.
KEYS TO VICTORY FOR SDSU
The most important key to victory for the Aztecs all year has been their defense. Yes, the offense is good, but the offense averaged just 26.5 points per game. The defense allowed 19.5 points per game and were ranked number one overall in the Mountain West throughout the year. They will have to show up against UTSA if they want a chance at finishing the year with a win.
Ending the season as the second ranked rushing defense in the country, the Aztecs won their 11 games by keeping the opposition of the field. SDSU also led the Mountain West with 16 interceptions and was ranked 3rd in sacks, while allowing just 77.6 yards per game on the ground.
In order to get a win against UTSA, a team with an explosive offense including running back Sincere McCormick, they will have to make stops and keep them off the field.
The Aztecs allowed 319.6 yards per game of total offense while UTSA averages 442.9 yards per game, utilizing pass and run. Defense will be huge for SDSU, bottom line.
The other important key role of this teams’ success this year is the run game. The Aztecs have a deep rotation of backs, including team leading rusher Greg Bell. Bell will need to be at his best as he is expected to receive a decent workload. He was one of the best performers on offense this year, rushing for just under 1,000 yards and 8 total touchdowns. Bell is ranked 4th among Mountain West runnings backs this season with an average of 76.2 yards per game.
Being creative and finding the endzone will be crucial for the Aztecs. UTSA allows over 100 rushing yards per game (111.5) which is what SDSU will need to take advantage of. UTSA also allows 252 passing yards per game, which should also be considered.
SDSU Quarterbacks Jordon Brookshire and Lucas Johnson have shared most of the snaps this season, trading places with injuries and playing to the opponents weakness. Passing is not a huge strength for the Aztecs, though Johnson lead the duo in passing yards with 1,091 and 9 touchdowns.
Whoever takes the wheel under center in this game should be fine, as both Johnson and Brookshire are able to scramble when in trouble. Brookshire finished the year with five rushing touchdowns as well as 3 passing touchdowns.
For the Aztecs, a strong showing on defense and a successful run game will be key in claiming a 2021 Frisco Bowl Victory.
KEYS TO VICTORY FOR UTSA
A historical 12-win season deserves a Bowl game win, right? That is if the Roadrunners can put on a show like they did in their Conference USA Championship win. A huge key to victory for UTSA will be their offense, but the defense has to show as well.
UTSA’s defense is ranked in the top 5 of all defensive categories including sacks and interceptions. They allow over 360 yards per game to opposing teams and will have to keep that number lower to win.
Bottom line, these guys can play. Despite a loss to North Texas to end the perfect season, the Roadrunners didn’t fold when facing Western Kentucky in the Championship. Running back Sincere McCormick rushed for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns in that game as well. That is something he will have to do again against a San Diego State defense that is one of the best in the country in stopping the run.
McCormick was also the 4th ranked running back in his conference (Conference USA) averaging 104.9 yards on the ground per game and 15 total touchdowns. This kid will see a lot of snaps and work but that could be limited if SDSU shuts him down.
McCormick will look to flip the script and rush for another 200 yards and keep the Aztecs on their toes.
Without a run game, UTSA is not in that much of trouble. Roadrunner quarterback Frank Harris can throw and run. He threw 25 passing touchdowns on 2,906 yards (that’s more than both SDSU QB’s combined) and rushed for 6 touchdowns on 565 yards. Harris is a playmaker and has proven that in the 12 games he has lead his team to win.
Harris is ranked 7th among Conference USA quarterbacks averaging 228.8 passing yards per game. Overall, UTSA has the second ranked offense and will look to put that on display in Frisco.
With SDSU having such a strong all-around defense, UTSA will have their work cut out for them. If Harris and McCormick can make some plays on offense and confuse the defense they will keep up and out-score SDSU to claim the 2021 Frisco Bowl Victory.
SDSU 31, UTSA 28