With all due respect to UTSA's 4-0 start this season, now comes the hard part of its schedule.
To be clear: This is not to suggest the first month of their second season has been easy for the Roadrunners.
UTSA deserves credit for staying focused against two Division II teams it clearly outmanned and for beating two upstart FBS squads on the road.
The Roadrunners have won by widely varying margins, riding a 51-yard field goal by Sean Ianno with 16 seconds left to beat South Alabama 33-31 in their opener and routing Northwestern Oklahoma State 56-3 last Saturday.
In between, they defeated Division II Texas A&M-Commerce 27-16 after leading 27-3 and rolled to a 38-14 win over Georgia State. South Alabama and Georgia State will start playing in the Sun Belt Conference next season.
Making its transition this season to the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, UTSA makes its league debut against New Mexico State (1-3) on Saturday night in Las Cruces, N.M. Kickoff is at 7.
UTSA coach Larry Coker has made it clear he has no illusions about the challenges his team will face as it steps up against tougher competition in the WAC.
"We're in the deep end right now," Coker said Monday at his weekly session with the media. "We're kind of treading water. We're not Michael Phelps."
Coker impressed with NM State quarterback
NM State is coming off a 27-14 loss to intrastate rival New Mexico on Saturday in Las Cruces. The defeat was the third in a row for the Aggies, who also lost to Ohio (51-24) and Texas-El Paso (41-28) after beating Sacramento State (49-19) in their opener.
Despite NM State's losing record, Coker said he expects the Aggies to come out with a sense of urgency Saturday night.
"I think what you'll see is that their season is on the line right now," Coker said. "They need to win a football game.They're going to be a tremendous challenge for us. They'll be the best team we've played since I've been here, talent-wise.
"They've got an excellent quarterback, some good, strong wide receivers and, physically, they have some big offensive and defensive lines."
NM State sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley completed 22 of 34 passes for 256 yards and one TD in the loss to New Mexico.
Sophomore wide receiver Austin Franklin eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the third time this season, finishing with six catches for 107 yards and a 23-yard TD reception.
Manley started the Aggies' first three games last season before sustaining a season-ending injury. He helped lead NM State to a 28-21 win over Minnesota, the Aggies' first victory against a Big 10 opponent, completing 20 of 31 passes for 288 yards and three TDs.
"Their quarterback is very accurate," Coker said. "He does a great job throwing the ball."
UTSA picked to finish last in WAC
NM State coach DeWayne Walker returned the praise when asked to assess UTSA.
"I was hoping I would turn the tape on and see a team that's getting started, but that's not the case," Walker said. "They've done a very good job over the last couple of years recruiting some good good players, especially offensively.
"They do a lot of good stuff. They're very multiple, very challenging. Defensively, they don't do a whole lot, but they're sound with what they do. No rest for the weary. We've got to find a way to try to get us a 'W' this weekend."
UTSA, which finished 4-6 as an FCS independent last year, was picked to finish last in the WAC this season. The Roadrunners will play only one season in the WAC before moving to Conference USA next year.
Coker, who has said time and again that building a college football team from scratch is "a process," was asked how significant a victory Saturday would be for UTSA.
"It would be a great win for us," he said. "Certainly to win a WAC game would be the next step in building this program."
UTSA quarterback Eric Soza said all the pressure will be on NM State.
"It's going to be a fun game," Soza said. "We're excited and I know they're excited. They want to turn their season around. If any week is a great week to do that, it's this week. We're predicted to finish last in conference, so this is a game they're supposed to win.
"In essence, what's the pressure on us? We get to go out there and have fun. Obviously, we're not going to have that mentality. We have a particular set of goals ourselves. It's a fun game when you have nothing to lose."