No. 24 Troy Trojans vs. No. 25 UTSA Roadrunners
Line: Troy -1.5
Where: Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Florida
When: Friday, 12/16 at 3:00 p.m. ET
A pair of teams tied for the third-longest winning streak in college football will square off in the Cure Bowl on Friday afternoon when No. 24 Troy faces No. 25 UTSA.
The Trojans and Roadrunners are each riding 10-game winning streaks, trailing only Georgia (15) and Michigan (13) nationally. UTSA is aiming for the first bowl win in program history after winning Conference USA, while Troy is seeking its fifth consecutive bowl victory following a Sun Belt title.
“We’re going to Orlando with the intention of winning a football game, but we’re also going to make sure that our players have a great time and are rewarded for a championship season,” Troy coach Jon Sumrall said.
Oddsmakers opened UTSA as a 1.5-point favorite in this matchup, but the early betting action has flipped Troy to a 1.5-point favorite. Friday afternoon’s total opened at 53.5 before getting bet up to 55.5 as of early Thursday morning.
UTSA co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Will Stein left the program to become Oregon’s offensive coordinator, which could account for part of the line move. The Roadrunners head into bowl season ranked ninth in total offense, averaging 486.1 yards per game. Tight ends/special teams coach Justin Burke is taking over for Stein.
Veteran quarterback Frank Harris has already announced that he will be back for a seventh season at the school after earning Conference USA Player of the Year honors. He passed for 3,865 yards, 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“I’m not going to lie. At first, I had no desire to come back,” Harris said. “I’ve been here for a very long time, but I thought about it and prayed about it. It was best for me to play one more season and see how it plays out.”
Harris is less than 900 yards away from 10,000 career passing yards, and he has also added 1,808 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground. He ranked sixth nationally in passing yards this season, completing 71.1% of his passes. This will be one of the toughest tests of his career, as Troy ranks eighth in scoring defense (17.5) and is tied for 19th in total defense (325.3).
The Trojans racked up 39 sacks this season, led by Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Carlton Martial, who holds the FBS all-time record with 563 tackles. He’s also racked up 10.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and six interceptions in his career.
Their offense has not been quite as dynamic as UTSA’s, but they scored at least 34 points in three straight games down the stretch. Junior quarterback Gunnar Watson has completed 61.9% of his passes for 2,705 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. One of his best performances of the season came against Coastal Carolina in the conference championship, as he threw for 318 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
His big game helped make up for running back Kimani Vidal’s slow day, as he rushed for just 53 yards on 20 carries. Vidal was outstanding in his two games prior to that, going over 200 rushing yards against Louisiana Monroe and Arkansas State, totaling six touchdowns in those two contests.
Watson and Vidal are facing a UTSA defense that was at its best down the stretch, allowing 18 points per game in its final four contests. The Roadrunners have still gone ‘over’ the total in 12 of their last 17 games, though. They have also gone 4-1 against the spread in their last five games, while Troy is 5-1 ATS in its last six games.
The pick: UTSA +2 (DraftKings)
Both of Troy’s losses this season came against teams with strong offenses (Ole Miss, Appalachian State), and I am not convinced that UTSA’s offensive coordinator change is going to be much of a factor. The Roadrunners have one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country leading their offense, so he will be able to handle the play-calling duties. Troy likes to run the ball and lean heavily on its defense, which makes this an uncomfortable matchup for the Trojans. The betting market has flipped the favorite for Friday’s game, but the initial line was the more accurate number. I think UTSA has some added motivation as it seeks its first bowl win in school history.