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The Conference USA Championship Game will be a rematch of an October thriller as UTSA plays host to North Texas with a league title hanging in the balance. When these teams played in Week 8, the Roadrunners escaped with a 31-27 victory after quarterback Frank Harris found receiver De’Corian Clark for the go-ahead touchdown with just 15 seconds left.
That played capped a back-and-forth affair between the in-state foes, which are 5-5 against each other since becoming league rivals in the 2013 season. They have played every season since then, but this will mark the first time they have played twice in a season. Both have made fairly recent appearances in the Conference USA title game — just not against each other. In fact, UTSA is the reigning champion after knocking off Western Kentucky 49-41 in the game last season.
North Texas last appeared in the title game in 2017, when the Mean Green fell 41-17 at FAU during coach Seth Littrell’s second season as coach. The subsequent seasons featured some ups and downs for North Texas, but this year’s 6-2 league record is the program’s best since that 2017 campaign.
With both schools headed to the AAC after this season, this marks their farewell to Conference USA. Both would like to go out on top before they enter a new league.
Date: Friday, December 2 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
TV: CBS Sports Network | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Riding Ragsdale: Reaching this game required a gutty effort from the Mean Green last week in a 21-17 over Rice. Running back Ikaika Ragsdale hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass with 10:35 left to put North Texas ahead, and the Mean Green defense came up with consecutive stops from there to clinch the victory. Rice outgained North Texas 415-362 and led in time of possession by more than 11 minutes, but North Texas won the turnover battle 2-0 and had the best skill player on the field in Ragsdale. The redshirt sophomore led the Mean Green in receiving with five catches for 59 yards and in rushing with 122 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts.
Run disparity: Shutting down North Texas’ run game proved critical for UTSA in its win over the Mean Green on Oct. 22. North Texas netted just 22 yards rushing and failed to score on the ground. On the other hand, UTSA rushed for 257 yards while racking up 32 first downs versus just 13 for North Texas. Nonetheless, the Mean Green managed to hang around behind quarterback Austin Aune‘s three passing touchdowns. North Texas led 13-10 entering the fourth quarter before the teams combined for 35 points in the fourth with the Roadrunners escaping on Harris’ late touchdown toss to Clark.
UTSA’s ascendance: The Roadrunners have lived just outside the national spotlight this season after rising as high as No. 15 last season during a 12-2 campaign highlighted by road wins over Illinois and Memphis. This season, the Roadrunners came up just short in a 37-35 loss at then-No. 24 Houston in Week 1 and lost 41-20 at then-No. 21 Texas on Sept. 17. But since that loss against the Longhorns, the Roadrunners have ticked off nine straight wins to secure consecutive seasons with double-digit victories. While the Roadrunners may not have cracked the polls this season, they have cemented their status as one of the nation’s top Group of Five programs under third-year coach Jeff Traylor as they prepare to join the AAC.
UTSA has experience in this spot after winning the Conference USA Championship Game over Western Kentucky last season. With a veteran star at quarterback in Frank Harris and home-field advantage, the Roadrunners are equipped to repeat as Conference USA champions. Though they narrowly escaped with a 31-27 win over North Texas in the regular-season meeting on Oct. 22, the Roadrunners were more dominant than the final score suggested. The Mean Green struggled to run the ball in that game and UTSA more than doubled them up in total first downs. Look for the final score to more accurately reflect UTSA’s status as a Group of Five stalwart this time around. Prediction: UTSA -8.5
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