In December of 2019, Jeff Traylor arrived in San Antonio to take over a team that was mediocre over the last two seasons. Now, after an outstanding first year, expectations are higher than ever. Traylor took a team that went 4-8 and had no identity in the previous tenure and led them to a 7-4 record and the Roadrunners 2nd bowl berth in their 10-year history. The future moving forward has never been brighter. The emergence of the two headed monsters known as Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus transformed this offense. The entire offensive line who looked impressive in the back half of the season is expected to return and Sincere McCormick will be coming back after winning Conference USA offensive player of the year. Senior leaders on the defensive side of the ball Lorenzo Dantzler and Antonio Parks announced they were returning after the NCAA allowed an extra year of eligibility to players after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Runners are also welcoming a bevy of talented high school recruits and transfers from JUCO’s and other prominent D1 programs. The biggest question marks heading into the season will be depth on the defensive line and quarterback. Jaylon Haynes is gone to public knowledge and Solomon Wise has entered the transfer portal. As for the quarterback situation, Frank Harris performed well at times, but in crucial moments, the limitations on his arm were exposed, especially after being replaced in the middle of the season. He’s definitely the biggest playmaker on the offensive side of the ball outside of McCormick. Look for players like Josh Adkins and a healthy Lowell Narcisse to compete for the starting job starting in the spring. With all the roster news covered so far. Let’s take an early look at the season, game-by-game.
At Illinois, September 4th (0-0)
Year two under the Jeff Traylor regime kicks off against the Fighting Illini in Champagne. Illinois is undergoing their own coaching change, firing Lovie Smith and hiring Bret Bielma. Bielma was most recently the outside linebacker’s coach with the New York Giants. He returns to the Big 10 after coaching at Wisconsin from 2006-2012 in which he never had a losing season. Illinois is coming off a 2-6 record after a COVID shortened season. Illinois returns starting quarterback Brandon Peters who missed almost half of the season last year with a positive COVID test. The team hasn’t been known for winning too much in recent history, only making two bowl appearances since 2014. This is the perfect opportunity for the Roadrunners to win their second game against a power 5 school. Final score projection: 27-14, UTSA.
Lamar, September 11th (1-0)
This is another expected win for the Runners. Lamar is an FCS school and in recent history, UTSA has dominated against such opponents. Lamar will be playing this spring, so we’ll get an early idea of how good they’ll be soon. Roadrunners by a lot. Final score projection: 52-17, UTSA.
Middle Tennessee, September 18th (2-0)
For the second straight season, the Roadrunners are hosting the Blue Raiders. This game is fresh off the first bye week for the Runners. Last year, UTSA lost starting quarterback Frank Harris late in the second half. Backup QB Josh Adkins took over and was able to hold onto the lead. This year, MTSU will be without their quarterback Asher O’Hara after he transferred to Sacramento State. This will be a game between a team that is losing a lot of their roster and a team that retains the majority of their own. Final Score projection, 35-14, UTSA.
At Memphis, September 25th (3-0)
This was a game that was scheduled last year but was cancelled due to COVID-related issues in the Tiger’s program. The second scheduled bout is set exactly a year after the first one, this time in Memphis. Memphis has been a consistent team over the past few years, but their heading into their first season in what feels like forever without quarterback Brady White under center. This game is a benchmark game for both teams, but I see the more cohesive UTSA team pulling off the road upset against the AAC foe. Final score prediction: 20-17, UTSA.
UNLV, October 2nd (4-0)
Entering October undefeated was once a dream for the Roadrunners. Now? It’s a very big possibility. In a perfect world, the defense hasn’t missed a step and the offense has found constancy with the running and passing game. The team will use that momentum to crush the bottom feeders of the Mountain West. The Rebels looked bad last year. They went 0-6 last year and had two games cancelled against teams that likely would’ve won. While this could be a trap game for UTSA, Coach Traylor should have the boys ready to runaway with this game and remain undefeated heading into conference. Final score prediction: 45-24, UTSA.
At Western Kentucky, October 9th (5-0)
This game has “trap game” written all over it, but it’s hard to project just what the WKU team can do. They’re the only team other than UTSA to play at least 11 games last season. They did win 5, but 4 of those came against the bottom tier of CUSA. They ended their 2020 regular season on a three-game winning streak, but that came against Southern Mississippi, FIU, and Charlotte. They are bringing in several transfers who performed well at their previous schools, most importantly quarterback Bailey Zappe who starred at FCS-level Houston Baptist. This is either the game that all of WKU’s new pieces start clicking or they fall apart. I do see UTSA leaving Bowling Green victors in a scrappy game. Final score prediction: 14-13, UTSA.
Rice, October 16th (6-0)
At this point in the season, UTSA will probably be considered to be one of the few G5 schools to be present in both the AP poll and the CFB Playoff poll. That’s a swagger that’ll be important against a team like Rice, although the returning Roadrunners from last year’s team might not need any extra motivation. In the regular season finally, every UTSA fan and player was a Rice fan. Had the Owls taken care of business and knocked off UAB, UTSA would’ve been playing in their first ever conference championship game. That’ll be the gas that fuels the ensuing molly whopping that UTSA will deliver in what could likely be the Homecoming game. Final score prediction: 45-21, UTSA.
At La Tech, October 23rd (7-0)
I’ve used the term “trap game” a few times in this article. For those who don’t know, a trap game is a game that your team should win but because of unforeseen circumstances, doesn’t. La Tech has proven to be better that UTSA over the years, but this year, this is UTSA’s trap game. It’s in Ruston and in my time at UTSA, the Roadrunners have never struggled anywhere more. The Bulldogs pull off the upset and spoil the Runners chance and an undefeated season heading into the final bye week. Final score prediction: 27-17, La Tech.
At UTEP, November 6th (7-1)
This game that, prior to last season, was known as the Toilet Bowl. These are teams that share the same system name, the University of Texas, and almost identical color schemes. Up until three years ago, the home team had never won. UTSA has now won 4 straight games against little brother and the streak will continue, easily. Last year was a blowout and I see no changes. Final score prediction: 51-14, UTSA.
Southern Miss., November 13th (8-1)
This is a dangerous spot for the Roadrunners to find themselves in. They’ve lost only one game and are flying high after a blowout victory against one of the bigger rivals in conference. This is also the game before what will be the biggest game of the year. Southern Mississippi could be a good team next year. They bring back the bulk of their offensive talent but they’re losing the majority of their defensive starters. If the Runners are humming on offensive, I see another strong victory for the boys in Blue (or whatever uniform combination gets used that week). Final score projection: 38-28, UTSA.
UAB, November 20th (9-1)
This is it. The game that ever fan and player has circled on their calendar. This game will likely decide who represents the West in the CUSA Conference Championship game. Last year, UTSA was down to their 3rd and 4th string quarterback after losing 2nd string Josh Adkins on the first play of the game. UAB is losing two of their most important players in Spencer Brown and Jordan Smith, but they had plenty of depth at both positions. If both teams are healthy, this will be the game of the year in Conference USA. It’ll be a slugfest, but I see UTSA getting revenge and punching their ticket to hosting the CUSA championship game in a great game. Final score: 38-35, UTSA.
At UNT, November 27th (10-1)
This is a game that the team might not mind losing, but the fans will. UNT is considered by the fans to be the true rivalry game. The Roadrunners will likely be in cruise control this week in order to prepare for the conference championship game against likely either FAU or Marshall. If things work out how I’m projecting, expect Coach Traylor to sit a few key starters to avoid injury. Even with that being the case, Mean Green is in a terrible spot after losing several key players and coaches this offseason. I still think the backup Runners will pull out a victory. Final score prediction: 21-14, UTSA.
These predictions are based on quarterback play and the defensive side of the ball clicking again. Poor quarterback play and a declining defense could result in some loses throughout the year. Games like Illinois and Memphis could swing in the opposite direction with poor play. Western Kentucky on the road could be a loss if the defense doesn’t have the cohesiveness it finished last year with. While the ceiling for this team is very high, the floor is also high. This seems like the team that should win a minimum of 6-7 games. Only time will tell. 207 days until kickoff in Champagne. Go Runners.