Two of the top non-power conference teams in the nation square off Tuesday night when No. 24 San Diego State opposes UTSA in the Frisco Bowl at Frisco, Texas.
Both programs are enjoying big campaigns even though they operate outside the national spotlight.
UTSA (12-1) of Conference USA is in just its 10th season as an FBS program and is looking for its initial bowl victory. The San Antonio-based school could also notch a rare 13th victory.
San Diego State (11-2) of the Mountain West is looking to win 12 games for the first time in the school’s Division I history. The school also won 11 games in 1969, 2015 and 2016.
The Aztecs, though, are limping their way to Texas after being clobbered 46-13 by Utah State in the Mountain West title game on Dec. 4.
That type of beating was a stunner as San Diego State allowed 16 or fewer points on seven occasions this season.
“We are 11-2, and many football teams would like to be 11-2, but we would rather be 12-1, but that is where we are right now,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. “We can also set the school record for wins. We have an opportunity to still play for that.”
San Diego State received one break when Roadrunners star running back Sincere McCormick decided to skip Tuesday’s game as he prepares to enter the NFL draft.
McCormick received multiple All-American honors after setting school records for rushing yards (1,479) and rushing touchdowns (15) and earning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors. McCormick had eight 100-yard rushing efforts this season.
“To the city of San Antonio, UTSA and Meep Meep nation, I am so grateful for the support you have shown not just me, but the entire football program over the last three years,” McCormick said in part during his announcement.
McCormick’s exit is a blow to an offense that averages 37.9 points per game and scored 44 or more points on six occasions.
But the team’s confidence is high after the stellar campaign under second-year coach Jeff Traylor. UTSA’s lone blemish was a 45-23 road loss against North Texas on Nov. 27 but now the focus is on playing well in the school’s third-ever bowl game.
“It’s always fun to win. We don’t like to talk about it very much, but we’ve experienced that other thing this year and we don’t want to do that again,” Traylor said. “That is what is most important, for our kids to leave on a good note. In the history of the program, we’ve never won a bowl game. …
“Why not us? Some team is going to be the first to win a bowl game in the history of this school. Why not us?”
San Diego State features a star linebacker in Cameron Thomas (20.5 tackles for loss) but its most intriguing player is Matt Araiza, nicknamed “Punt God.”
Araiza won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and his current 51.4 average would surpass Texas A&M’s Braden Mann (50.98 in 2018) as the best in FBS history.
Araiza also is a unanimous first-team All-American. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in both 1992 and 1993.
Araiza placed 36 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, and has six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards. The 86-yarder against San Jose State came with San Diego State backed up on its own 11-yard line and Araiza standing in his own end zone to field the snap.
“I think that one rolled about 20 yards,” Araiza said. “Someone downed it at their 3.”
The Frisco Bowl is San Diego State’s 11th bowl berth since 2020. The Aztecs split the other 10.
UTSA lost 23-20 to New Mexico in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl and 31-24 to Louisiana in the 2020 First Responder Bowl in its previous two bowl opportunities.
–Field Level Media