UTSA Roadrunners ranked for the first time: Could they go New Year’s Six bowling?

Jeff Traylor has the UTSA Roadrunners in a great position through seven games, but they're not done yet and have bigger goals to achieve.

College football‘s chaotic start resulted in new teams emerging from the shadows. Teams like the UTSA Roadrunners weren’t hot commodities when the season began, but that’s quickly changed as they enter the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time ever. Jeff Traylor’s squad not only is having a season to remember, but they display similar traits to past teams that represented the Group of Five in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

UTSA’s best start in school history

If you’ve paid attention to the Group of Five over the last few years, you noticed a trend with those teams: chemistry. These squads play well together and not as individuals. UTSA’s using that same formula, but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that individual players are leading the way thanks to a chip on their shoulders.

Frank Harris has taken great strides as the Roadrunners’ quarterback and is on pace to post career highs in nearly every category. Joshua Cephus, Zakhari Franklin, and De’Corian Clark give Harris three elite options. They’ve also caught 81.2% of his passes. As such, the passing game has aided a rushing attack once again led by Sincere McCormick.

On defense, Rashad Wisdom has returned and is playing lights out. Trevor Harmanson, Dadrian Taylor, Charles Wiley, and Clarence Hicks are all taking steps forward as well. Corey Mayfield Jr. leads the team in interceptions, and Tariq Woolen is quickly emerging as a potential star. Trumane Bell II and DeQuarius Henry have stepped up as contributors too. When UTSA needs a play, anyone can provide a spark.

They also have a coach who’s invested in them. Traylor came in and let the players decide many things for the program, and the results have been incredible. Even when he presented the idea of allowing coaches and players to vote on who wears a single digit on their jersey, the players bought in immediately. McCormick switched from 23 to 3, while Widsom went from 39 to 0.

That type of trust is earned, and it’s a big reason why they’re having one of the best two-year stretches in school history. Traylor is 14-5 at UTSA, while former head coach Larry Coker went 15-9 from 2012-13.

A UTSA Roadrunners’ NY6 run

Even though the Roadrunners are 7-0, they’re still largely overshadowed by the likes of Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina. When you’re the new kid on the block, you have to prove yourself time and time again. That’s not unique to UTSA, but they’re following the formula to get them where they want to go.

Under Traylor, UTSA has won 8 of their 11 games decided by 8 points or less, meaning this group knows how to come together to win football games. Four of those victories have come this year. The previous five NY6 representatives (Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF twice, and Western Michigan) went 13-4 in those same games.

It all started with the Roadrunners answering every score by Illinois to stun the Illini on the road. Three weeks later, Memphis jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter before UTSA outscored the Tigers 31-7 in the final three. Two weeks ago, they beat Western Kentucky 52-46 in a shootout.

They’ve proven week in and week out that they can win any kind of game, but they might do it a little differently than those aforementioned NY6 teams.

UTSA’s sustainability

Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell was — and will be this offseason — the most coveted coach in the coaching carousel but has thus far stayed with the Bearcats. Memphis lost Mike Norvell to Florida State. UCF lost both Josh Heupel (Tennessee) and Scott Frost (Nebraska), and Western Michigan saw P.J. Fleck go to Minnesota. Success is great for your program, but it also means your coach attracts other schools.

Now, the real question — is this sustainable?

Obviously, a big part of that hinges on Traylor. He’s built something special, but he’s also only been running the show for two years. If he leaves, the idea of sustainability takes a hit. We saw what happened to Memphis and UCF when that culture was disrupted. But what if Traylor stays?

McCormick, Clark, Franklin, Cephus, and Wisdom are all juniors and could return. Several other contributors are set to come back next year, although a couple of them could enter the 2022 NFL Draft. Another run could be in the cards, especially with the talent that Traylor is recruiting.

So yes, this is sustainable. Traylor doesn’t appear to be a guy who’s done building at UTSA. It feels like he’s just getting started. His current battle is getting fans into the stands for home games. Their last game against Rice saw 27,515 people attend the game, but Traylor’s not satisfied with that.