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2021 Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl Preview

4th Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl

San Diego State (11-2) vs.  UTSA (12-1)

December 21, 6:30 p.m., Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

TV: ESPN

Rankings: SDSU No. 24 CFP Rankings; UTSA No. 24/25 AP and Coaches and polls

Conferences: Mountain West (SDSU) vs. Conference USA (UTSA)

 

By Troy Phillips

If at first you don’t succeed – or in San Diego State’s case, twice – get better.

For the record, it’s not remotely an issue this time for SDSU (11-2) or its postseason opponent, UTSA (12-1).

In a rewind of its fourth edition, the Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl reeled in ranked teams with a combined three losses during the 2021 season. SDSU (No. 24 CFP rankings) is set to face UTSA (No. 24/25 AP and Coaches polls) on December 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Toyota Stadium.

It’s a Frisco Bowl of do-overs. They’re everywhere. A year ago, COVID-19 protocols for SMU wiped out the 2020 Frisco Bowl, one of many postseason casualties in the 2020 college football pandemic season most sooner would forget.

SDSU is back for another try at Toyota Stadium after falling 27-0 to Ohio in the 2018 Frisco Bowl. The Aztecs are 0-2 in Dallas-Fort Worth bowls, including a 42-35 heartbreaker to Army in the 2017 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

UTSA was to be SMU’s opponent in Frisco a year ago. The Roadrunners pivoted – quickly – to the Servpro First Responder Bowl in Dallas, but Louisiana won 31-24 and ended UTSA’s season at 7-5.

This season, SDSU and UTSA were weekly top-25 inhabitants after entering the rankings. Sitting 11-0, the Roadrunners clinched a berth in the C-USA Championship game but were upset at North Texas in the regular-season finale. They raced to a 42-13 lead over Western Kentucky in the C-USA Championship and won 49-41.

“We don’t like to talk about [winning] very much,” said UTSA coach Jeff Traylor, who earlier this season signed a $28 million extension through 2031. “We’ve experienced that other thing (losing) this year and we don’t want to do that again. 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. These guys have done a lot of firsts this year. I challenged them when the year started, ‘Why not us?’”

SDSU, behind the No. 2 rushing defense in the FBS (77.5 ypg), was on a similar roll before an Oct. 30 loss to Fresno State, then won four straight to advance to the Mountain West Championship against Utah State. The Aggies won 46-13.

SDSU and UTSA have never met in football, and their programs have contrasting histories. This is SDSU’s 11th bowl in 12 seasons, and 15th since joining Division I/FBS. UTSA has had football for only 11 seasons.

Not surprisingly, the Roadrunners electrified a relatively novice fan base, the city of San Antonio, and the Alamodome in 2021. Senior quarterback Frank Harris, junior running back Sincere McCormick, and junior receivers Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus had UTSA on an 11-week rampage.

McCormick, UTSA’s all-time leading rusher with nearly 4,000 career yards, has opted out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. QB Harris and backs B.J Daniels and Brendan Brady (combined 958 yards) will handle the ground game.

SDSU has its own unique showman in punter-kicker Matt Araiza, a frontrunner for the Ray Guy Award (nation’s top punter) who led FBS at 51.37 yards per punt. Araiza, a rare triple threat on punts, field goals and kickoffs, had 39 punts of 50 or more yards, including a long of 86. He also has five tackles in kick or punt coverage.

SDSU junior defensive end Cameron Thomas (10 ½ sacks, 20 ½ tackles for loss) was named the Mountain West defensive player of the year. SDSU is looking for a school record 12th victory.

“We didn’t accomplish the goals we always set,” SDSU coach Brady Hoke said of not winning the MWC. “There’s a lot of teams that would like to be 11-2.”