Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction
How do the Aztecs win against the Roadrunners?
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San Diego State goes to Texas and earn another bowl victory.
TROPICAL SMOOTHIE CAFE FRISCO BOWL: San Diego State Aztecs (11-2, 7-1 MW) vs. UTSA Roadrunners (12-1, 7-1 Conference USA)
WHEN: Tuesday, December 21 — 4:30 PM PT/6:30 PM CT
WHERE: Toyota Stadium; Frisco, TX
WEATHER: Mostly Sunny, High 57° Low 35°
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes ESPN, by following this link.
RADIO: San Diego State 101.5 KGB / XTRA 1360 / iHeart
Radio App / Sirius channel 135 / XM channel 201 | UTSA: Ticket 760 AM/Bowl Season Radio/SiriusXM 84
SERIES RECORD: First meeting between the schools.
WEBSITES: GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website | GoUTSA.com, the official UTSA athletics website
GAME NOTES (PDF): San Diego State | UTSA
ODDS (as of 12/17, via Vegas Insider): UTSA -2
SP+ PROJECTION: San Diego State by 0.1
FEI PROJECTION: UTSA by 2.1
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: UTSA 62.97% win probability
The game is set. @AztecFB vs @UTSAFTBL at Frisco for the 2021 @TSmoothieCafe Frisco Bowl on Tuesday, December 21! The game will air on ESPN at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Get your tickets here ⬇️⬇️https://t.co/5PX5uyfu1D pic.twitter.com/TaobHSJLWG
— Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl (@FriscoBowlGame) December 10, 2021
THREE KEYS TO A San Diego STATE VICTORY
1. One Last Run
Over the past decade, San Diego State has been known as the smash-mouth run team that will defend their leads to the last play of the game. Through the month of November, their offense thrived on the arm of Lucas Johnson and Jordon Brookshire. The fairy tale ended when the offense looked anemic against Utah State in the Mountain West Championship Game.
Aztec quarterbacks earned them multiple victories, but in order to win Tuesday’s bowl game it’s time Brady Hoke reinvigorates the running game behind this offensive line. William Dunkle’s performance this season has earned him a Second-team All-American recognition.
Two @AztecFB offensive linemen — starting left guard Chris Martinez and backup right guard Joey Capra — have entered the NCAA transfer portal. A school spokesman did not immediately know if the players would be precluded from playing in the @FriscoBowlGame.
— Kirk D Kenney (@sdutkirKDKenney) December 9, 2021
But with the news two linemen have opted to transfer, the team needs to focus on the big guys that push for their running backs.
Senior Greg Bell is 3 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season. After opening the season with multiple games of 100-plus rushing yards, Bell hasn’t achieved 100-plus yards since November 13 against Nevada.
Bell’s touches have been dwindling over the past month, starting with 16 against Nevada, 17 against UNLV, 15 against Boise State, and 11 against Utah State. In the same time frame, he’s averaged 4.0 yards per carry, 0.5 yards under his 2021 season average.
If there is any other incentive for their players since 2011 the Aztecs are 30-7 when possessing the football for at least 35 minutes.
2. Get to the quarterback
Last week running back Sincere McCormick, Conference USA’s two-time Offensive Player of the Year,
announced he will skip the game to prepare for the NFL draft, giving the Roadrunners a big gap to fill. UTSA has averaged 37.8 points per game this season, which ranks 12th in the nation, but 15 of their touchdowns came via McCormick.
Opposing quarterback Frank Harris can give the Aztecs a full-on headache. In 2021, Harris completed 66.4% of his throws with a 153.6 passer rating and \has not thrown a pick since November 13th against Southern Mississippi. In addition to his 2,906 passing yards with 25 touchdowns, he’s 565 rushing yards with 6 rushing touchdowns.
Utah State Quarterback Logan Bonner threw four touchdown passes in the Mountain West title game, including a 58-yard touchdown to put the game away at 21-3. The Aztecs won’t be able to compete if they allow Harris to mimic Bonner’s performance.
For the Aztecs to succeed, they’re going to have to play focused football, limiting their defensive penalties and get to the quarterback. The secondary has had trouble with over-the-top passes this season, but their pass rush from Cameron Thomas and the defensive line needs to come alive on Tuesday. Utah State only allowed 2 sacks in the championship game, and Hoke knows that his defense runs through his All-American Thomas.
UTSA will be out their star player, but San Diego State has to contain Frank Harris in order to win.
3. Score first then hold on
Various computer models are predicting this game to be a close one. San Diego State has trouble coming back from 2-score deficits as it’s been proven against Utah State. However, the Aztecs do extraordinary when they can defend a lead going into the half.
2021 game results in which the Aztecs went to halftime with a lead
- Win, Arizona (35:7)
- Win, Towson (21:14)
- Win, New Mexico (17:0)
- Win, San Jose State (6:3)
- Win, Air Force (13:0)
- Win, Hawaii (14:7)
- Win, Nevada (10:7)
- Win, UNLV (24:10)
2021 game results in which the Aztecs had a one-possession deficit or tie?
- Win, Utah (10:10)
- Win, Boise State (16:13)
2021 game results in which the Aztecs had a two-possession deficit?
- Win, New Mexico State (10:0)
- Loss, Fresno State (20:7)
- Loss, Utah State (14:3)
Aztec teams were built to win with a lead in mind. Add in an NFL-caliber punter in Matt Araiza who flips fields, opponents have a tough time overcoming Hoke’s game plan. This final key is simple– score first and hold and they can finally win a bowl east of New Mexico.
Do the Aztecs have enough will against a hungry UTSA team? Given the Mountain West title game, no one knows. The Aztecs have made a bowl game since 2010, except last year’s short season. Given the driveable distance between San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Roadrunners will have a slight home-field advantage. For the California team, the signs point to a get-right game but UTSA will eke this one out.
San Diego State 21, UTSA 24