Is UTSA football underrated?

Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor

UTSA is having another historic football season, sitting comfortably amongst their conference opponents with an 8-2 overall record and 6-0 in Conference USA for the second straight season. Not only do the Roadrunners have the best record in C-USA, but they have a two-game lead as they defeated second-place North Texas, who is 5-1, owning the tiebreaker if UTSA were to lose before the conference championship game. What separates UTSA this season and UTSA last season is that by week seven in 2021, UTSA was ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll (No. 24) and was ranked in the second edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings (No. 23), which posted this past week on Nov. 8. 

The two main ranking systems in college football are important as they give national attention and set up matchups for bowl games. The AP Top 25 College Football Poll consists of more than 60 writers, broadcasters and analysts who cast their votes based on who they think are the top 25 teams in college football. This poll starts before the season with preseason rankings and continues throughout the season, releasing every Sunday afternoon. The College Football Playoff Rankings come from a 13-person committee that uses metrics such as analytics, eye-test and other tactics to vote for the top 25 teams. Those rankings are released every Tuesday evening starting in November. Once the playoff poll comes out, no other poll matters, as the sacred committee dictates who plays who in bowl season.

The Roadrunners managed to move up to No. 15 in the AP Poll a year ago before losing their season finale to North Texas, finishing 11-1 in the regular season. UTSA went undefeated until the final game last season, almost making it seem as if the committee “had” to rank the Roadrunners as the football community would riot if — at the time — undefeated UTSA did not get their national recognition. More than any other sport, college football is dictated by its “blue blood.” Brands run the sport, especially based on the conference a team plays in. A C-USA team will not get the benefit of the doubt over any team from the Power Five conference. As a Group of Five schools, UTSA will only be ranked if it is completely obvious even to the fan with no football knowledge.

As of Week 10 in this college football season, only two Group of Five schools (No. 17 Tulane and No. 22 UCF) are ranked in the playoff rankings and are both from the American Athletic Conference, which UTSA will join in the 2023 season. Tulane sits with an 8-2 overall record, while UCF is 8-2, the same as the ‘Runners. The Knights’ two losses are from Louisville and East Carolina. The combined record of those two teams is 12-6, while the two losses from the teams UTSA lost to (Houston and Texas) are 11-7. Though the records are even, both of the teams the ‘Runners lost to were ranked at the time of play, and the Houston game was not only the season opener but went to triple overtime. The Knights played Tulane on Saturday, making them the only ranked opponent they have beaten. Not only are the records similar, but UTSA has had a much more demanding out-of-conference schedule than either UCF or Tulane. 

Tulane defeated No. 23 Kansas State by one touchdown and barely beat Houston, 27-24, also in overtime. Tulane’s first loss came from Southern Miss, which is a part of the Sun Belt Conference, which is widely considered the worst football conference in all of FBS. Tulane also just lost to UCF at home. With both losses coming at home, they should look worse to the committee. According to the 2022 College Football Strength of Schedule Rankings, UTSA is ranked 79th in strength of schedule to Tulane’s 84th. UCF is 67th; however, UTSA has dominated their conference while the other two teams struggle in theirs. With the Roadrunners having a clear path to a conference title, they should be looked at as more dominant.

Florida State and Kentucky are ranked 23 and 24 in the playoff rankings, with the Seminoles having three losses and the Wildcats having four. Kentucky plays in the South Eastern Conference, considered the top conference in all of college football. Kentucky’s out-of-conference schedule is laughable compared to UTSA’s, with the combined record of their out-of-conference opponents being 13-16, and six of those wins coming from Youngstown State, which is an FCS school. Although Florida State has had a tougher strength of schedule, they are not even going to go to their conference championship as they have lost three conference games. 

UTSA has played good football against some pretty good teams. As the season gets closer to an end and their wins go up, there is no reason they should not be ranked by the next edition of the polls.