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Roadrunners Nonconference Games Ranked by Importance

UTSA Roadrunners quarterback Frank Harris (0) runs against Texas Longhorns defensive back Larry Turner-Gooden (3) during the fourth quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in 2022.
© John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

The UTSA Roadrunners enter the 2024 season with high expectations after securing their first-ever bowl victory. ESPN ranks them as the Group of 5 team with the second-best odds for reaching the College Football Playoffs.

Coach Jeff Traylor faces the challenge of replacing key players from last year's squad, including quarterback Frank Harris and defensive end Trey Moore. They both earned first-team all-American Athletic Conference honors. Moore also garnered recognition as the AAC Defensive Player of the Year. Let's assess their 2024 nonconference schedule and rank the importance of each of these games.

No. 4. Houston Christian Huskies (2023 6-5, 3-3 Southland Conference)

Since 1978, FBS teams have played 3,462 games against FCS opponents, with the FCS winning just 490 times, a meager 14.2 percent winning percentage. Houston Christian kicks off their season away at SMU, providing UTSA ample footage for scouting purposes. Despite the Huskies' winning record in 2023, this game is expected to be a cakewalk win for the Roadrunners, likely allowing them to rotate in many second-string players.

UTSA Roadrunners cheerleaders celebrate on the field with fans after the Roadrunners defeated the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 49-41 in the Conference USA championship game the Alamodome in 2021.
© Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3. Kennesaw State Owls (2023 3-6, FCS Independent)

Kennesaw State begins its inaugural FBS season on Aug. 31 against UTSA at the Alamodome. The Owls enjoyed considerable success at the FCS level, boasting a 71-30 record with four playoff appearances and three conference titles. UTSA's defensive focus will likely center on containing Kennesaw State's running game, especially with the departure of last year's quarterback, Jonathan Murphy. Leading the charge is running back Michael Benefield, who amassed 546 rushing yards at an impressive average of 6.3 yards per carry last season.

Kennesaw State Owls quarterback Xavier Shepherd (8) drops back to throw a pass in the first quarter of the NCAA football game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Kennesaw State Owls at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.
© Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kennesaw State faces defensive challenges after losing their top two tacklers, defensive backs Deontre Morris and Markeith Montgomery. The Owls will need new players to step up. With anticipated tackling inexperience and potential rust in the first game, UTSA's offensive skill players should capitalize on missed tackles. They can turn what should be short gains into explosive plays against the Owls.

No. 2. Texas Longhorns (2023 12-2, 9-1 Big 12 Conference)

The Longhorns were just one play away from reaching the College Football Playoff National Championship game last year, with quarterback Quinn Ewers narrowly missing receiver Adonai Mitchell on the final play against the Washington Huskies. Texas poses a significant challenge for the Roadrunners, boasting strong talent on both offense and defense. Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will be electric in Austin for this matchup. Ewers leads an offense that averaged 36 points per game last season, supported by a defense expected to rank among the Southeastern Conference's best, featuring former Roadrunner Moore, who transferred to Texas during the offseason.

The teams first met in 2022 in Austin, where they were tied 17-17 at halftime. However, the Longhorns pulled away in the second half, outscoring the Roadrunners 24-3 to secure a 41-20 victory. UTSA fans will consider it a success if their team remains within 14 points or less going into the fourth quarter as many anticipate a blowout. While Texas will have no problems with looking ahead to their upcoming game against Louisiana-Monroe, they will be coming off one of the top games of the year at Michigan the week before. The Roadrunners' best hope is to capitalize if the Longhorns experience any emotional fatigue from their intense game in Ann Arbor.

No. 1. Texas State Bobcats (2023 8-5, 4-4 Sun Belt Conference)

The Bobcats are coming off their most successful season yet, achieving a program-best eight wins and securing their first-ever bowl victory. Texas State gave UTSA all it could handle in a 20-13 loss at the Alamodome and is seeking revenge in the upcoming rematch at Bobcat Stadium. Coach GJ Kinne aims to improve an offense that averaged 37 points per game last season by acquiring quarterback Jordan McCloud, the returning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, in the offseason. McCloud posted impressive stats at James Madison (3,657 passing yards and 35 TDs) and is expected to excel in the Texas State offense this year, likely surpassing his previous achievements in 2023.

The Bobcats aim to bolster their defense after surrendering an average of 33 points per game last season. Particularly, their pass defense, which allowed 246 yards per game, needs improvement after finishing tied for 101st in the nation in this category. Texas State will rely heavily on its pass rush, with defensive end Ben Bell (second-team All-Sun Belt) expected to replicate and exceed last year's success, where he recorded 10 sacks. Despite an 0-5 record against the Roadrunners, with four games decided by 7 points or less, Texas State is determined to shed its underdog status and establish a true rivalry by securing a long-awaited victory.

Roadrunners' Nonconference Schedule Outlook

The Roadrunners' nonconference schedule presents an interesting challenge: two easy matchups (Houston Christian and Kennesaw State), a tough game (Texas State) and an impossible game (Texas). Achieving a 3-1 record before their first AAC game on Sept. 28 against East Carolina aligns perfectly with their expectations. The pivotal game that will likely decide their early-season record is the clash in San Marcos against Texas State, expected to be fiercely contested until the final minutes.


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