Playing in a new conference this season, UTSA appears primed to go bowling for a fourth consecutive season, but can they reach the 8-win mark in 2023?
- UT-San Antonio is moving from C-USA to the American Athletic Conference in 2023.
- The Roadrunners have 8 of 11 starters returning on the offensive side of the ball after the unit ranked 12th last year in total offense.
- UTSA faces No. 12 Tennessee in Knoxville in Week 4.
So often we hear the phrase ‘overnight success’ only to discover it to be an exaggeration. When it comes to the UT-San Antonio football team; however, that’s not the case, and the Roadrunners are anxious to continue their meteoric rise on the gridiron in 2023 with another league title at a new conference.
Following successive Conference USA championships the last two seasons, UT-San Antonio is now headed to the American Athletic Conference where the college football futures have the Roadrunners +475 to win the title. That puts them third behind Tulane (+225) and SMU (+260).
Roadrunners Have Won 23 Games Last 2 Seasons
A huge effort went into this ‘overnight success,’ and credit goes to Larry Coker for laying much of the groundwork in getting the program up and running when he served as the head coach from 2011-15. Traylor became the third coach following the 2019 campaign and has guided the Roadrunners to a 30-10 record in his three seasons.
The team is coming off an 11-3 record a year ago, but Traylor, his staff, and the team considered it a bit of a disappointment after falling to Troy in the Cure Bowl. BetOnline has set this year’s win total at 7½ as the Roadrunners take a step up into the AAC.
The offense has been Texas-San Antonio’s calling card since Traylor arrived. Justin Burke will take over this season as the offensive coordinator after serving as an offensive analyst and special teams coordinator for the past few seasons. Traylor and Burke were assistants together up the road in Austin in 2015-16.
The Roadrunners have ranked in the top 15 in scoring offense each of the past two seasons and were 12th in the country last year averaging 476 total yards per game, and it added up to them being a good college football pick to go ‘Over’ the totals in 8 games. None of that should change with veteran quarterback Frank Harris back under center.
Harris was recently named as the top college player in the State of Texas by ESPN and is coming off a season in which he threw for over 4,000 yards and 32 scoring strikes. Zakhari Franklin, UTSA’s top receiver last year with 93 catches and 15 TD, transferred to Mississippi, but Harris will have Joshua Cephus (87 rec), De’Corian Clark (51 rec), and his top tight end Oscar Cardenas (31 rec) returning to provide ample targets.
The offense also has a top running back Kevorian Barnes (845 rush yds) returning, and the Roadrunners added former Vanderbilt tailback Rocko Griffin to the fold. Griffin missed most of 2022 with an injury after leading the Commodores in rushing in 2021.
An experienced line is back to keep Harris upright in the pocket or open holes for Barnes and Griffin. The Roadrunners are shifting Ernesto Almaraz from tackle to center, plus moving Venly Tatafu from tackle to guard, plus having Terrell Haynes also returning at guard.
Traylor also brought along a fellow assistant to man the defense when he took over in San Antonio, and Jess Loepp’s job as defensive coordinator this year will be to improve a unit that ranked 74th allowing more than 385 yards per game last season.
A couple of massive bodies fill the middle of the D-line, each coming to UTSA from schools in Louisiana in recent years. Brandon Brown (6-2, 310) transferred in from Tulane after the 2020 season, and Joe Evans (6-3, 340) came over from LSU after 2021 and will anchor the middle of Loepp’s 3-4 alignment.
The linebacking corps features Trey Moore after he led UT-San Antonio with 8 sacks a year ago. Nicktroy Fortune might be the best college corner you’ve never heard of, and the Roadrunners are happy to see safety Rashad Wisdom back after an injury-marred 2022.
This year’s fixture begins with a couple of in-state, non-conference rivalries. The Roadrunners open at Houston, a former AAC squad now residing in the Big 12, and several shops are listing it as a pick after the NCAAF odds opened with the Cougars -2½.
UT-San Antonio then plays its home opener against Texas State in Week 2 before hosting Army. It’s Week 4 and the Roadrunners make a huge step up with a trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee.
Following a bye in Week 5, the Roadrunners begin their AAC slate at Temple. While they don’t have SMU on the schedule, the Roadrunners’ toughest conference games all come on the road: Temple, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, and Tulane.
To top the 7½-win total, UTSA must win all 6 home games and at least 2 of their 6 roadies. My play is ‘Under’ the number for your NCAAF picks.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product