UTSA vs. San Diego State Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

UTSA vs. San Diego State prediction and pick for Tuesday's Frisco Bowl matchup. Alex Kirshner breaks down the game and gives his favorite pick
Alex Kirshner |
Mon, December 20, 4:48 AM EST | 4 min read
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UTSA vs. San Diego State Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

UTSA Roadrunners vs. San Diego State Aztecs - Frisco Bowl

Spread: UTSA -2.5

Total: 49.5

Game time: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Frisco, Texas

Where to watch: ESPN

UTSA vs. San Diego State odds

UTSA vs. San Diego State Prediction

The college football bowl calendar has some tremendous all-Group of Five games this month. One of the best takes place on Tuesday night in Frisco between UTSA and San Diego State. I think it’s one of the best matchups of the entire bowl season, and it’ll be worth some time on your Tuesday night to watch the Roadrunners and Aztecs try to figure each other out. It’s also maybe the most even matchup of the postseason, as SDSU is 56th in SP+ and UTSA is 57th.

UTSA is 12-1 and coming off its first Conference USA championship (and maybe its only one, given the Roadrunners’ impending move to the AAC). Jeff Traylor’s team has made several narrow escapes to get to this point, including a comeback win against Memphis after trailing 21-0, a couple of wins in one-score tossups against high-powered Western Kentucky, and a last-minute win over UAB that required driving nearly the length of the field with no timeouts. That’s to say: UTSA has been the perfect kind of college football team — good enough to win almost all of its games, but messy enough to leave a lot of them up to late drama.

San Diego State is 11-2 and coming off a surprising blowout loss to Utah State in the Mountain West Championship. The Aztecs have one of the worst offenses in the country, but they win with an elite defense and a punter who allows them to dominate field position. The formula has usually worked, and it’ll make for a fun clash of styles against the shootout-happy Roadrunners in Frisco. In a game that looks like a tossup, I’d look pretty closely at Brady Hoke’s SDSU.

For starters, San Diego State isn’t an ideal matchup for the UTSA offense. The Roadrunners are known as a running team (no pun intended), but the most efficient facet of their attack has come when QB Frank Harris throws the ball. That’s likely to stay true in the bowl game, because star running back Sincere McCormick opted out in preparation for the NFL Draft. Harris has some good receivers in deep threat Zakhari Franklin and intermediate option Joshua Cephus. They’ll put up some numbers together, but probably less than usual. SDSU is adept at preventing the big pass play and doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of letting teams dink and dunk their way up the field. It’s the best defense the Roadrunners have seen all year, and they’ll have to confront the challenge without McCormick. That seems like a San Diego State advantage.

It’s also likely that the Roadrunners will have to cover some long fields. SDSU punter Matt Araiza is on the verge of setting the single-season record for average punt distance, and his unusual approach to booting the ball has also resulted in massive field-position gains for his defense this year. UTSA’s defense will probably rack up plenty of stops against a lousy SDSU offense, but barring turnovers, the offense is going to have a heavy lift in front of it on every drive. San Diego State probably won’t score much beyond the mid-20s, but the combination of special teams and defense means Hoke’s bunch might not need it. Seven of SDSU’s 11 wins have come while scoring fewer than 30 points. There’s also a possibility that UTSA’s defense leaks and gives SDSU more points than it usually scores. The Roadrunners have had big problems letting up explosive pass plays. SDSU isn’t a good candidate to take advantage of that, but it only takes one or two long connections to sway the shape of this game.

All in all, this is a “could go either way” bowl game, but I might give a slight edge to SDSU given McCormick’s absence on the other side. Given that the Aztecs are the ones getting points, I think they’re where you’ll find the most value here — though I’d like it more at +3 than +2.5.

UTSA vs. San Diego State Pick

Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.

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