The Texas Longhorns will play a former Southwest Conference opponent for the second straight week, this time as host to the Rice Owls. Texas fans hope this matchup plays out better than last Saturday, when the Longhorns were beaten 40-21 by Arkansas.
And history indicates it will: Texas has a 73-21-1 all-time record against Rice and has won 42 of the last 43 meetings following the 48-13 victory in 2019. The Longhorns' loss to Arkansas was the first for new head coach Steve Sarkisian, who is 1-1 with the Horns, including a 38-18 victory over Louisiana in the season opener. Rice, which also lost to Arkansas this season, fell 44-7 to Houston a week ago.
Rice at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, September 18 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: Longhorn Network
Spread: Texas -26
When Rice Has the Ball
Quarterback Wiley Green started for the Owls in Week 1 and completed 12 of 25 passes (48.0 percent) for 152 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. Nebraska transfer Luke McCaffrey also played against the Razorbacks and took over as the starter last week. Through two games, McCaffrey has posted similar passing numbers with a 48.3 percent completion rate, 161 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. McCaffrey can be a dangerous runner (he had over 500 rushing yards in 11 games with the Cornhuskers) but has just 11 yards on 12 carries this season.
Running back Khalan Griffin has been the best running threat for the Owls and leads the team with 32 carries and 121 rushing yards. Ari Broussard and versatile Jordan Myers follow with 56 and 23 rushing yards, respectively. Myers is officially listed as a tight end but sometimes lines up in the backfield and is the only Rice player with a rushing touchdown thus far. He also leads the team with seven receptions, including one touchdown, and ranks third with 52 receiving yards. August Pitre III had four catches for a team-leading 97 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas but did not play last week. Neither did Bradley Rozner, who led the team in receiving in 2019 and caught two passes for 30 yards in the opener.
When Texas Has the Ball
Like Rice, Texas has already made a change at quarterback. Hudson Card started each of the first two games, but Sarkisian announced earlier this week that Casey Thompson would get the nod against the Owls. Card completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in the two games combined but was held to 61 yards on 8-for-15 passing last week and was replaced. Thompson completed five of eight pass attempts for 57 yards in relief and added 44 rushing yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. He was 4-for-5 for 41 yards and one touchdown in limited action against Louisiana.
Regardless of which quarterback starts, running back Bijan Robinson is the star of the show for the Longhorns. Robinson has 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries, and he ranks second on the team with five receptions and 77 receiving yards with one receiving touchdown. Jordan Whittington leads the Longhorns with 12 receptions and 145 yards and also has a touchdown catch (as does tight end Cade Brewer, whose six-yard score came on his only reception this season). Freshman Xavier Worthy has flashed star potential as well but has only three catches and 75 yards through his first two games.
Defensive inconsistency has been a problem for Texas in recent years, and the trend has continued through the first two games of the Sarkisian era. The Longhorns were impressive against a tough Louisiana squad and held the typically run-heavy Ragin' Cajuns to 76 rushing yards, though the unit allowed 282 yards through the air. Arkansas had just 138 passing yards but didn't need to throw often while racking up 333 rushing yards and dominating the line of scrimmage. Texas has allowed an average of 6.14 yards per play, which ranks No. 104 nationally through two games.
Rice is also a run-first offense. However, the Owls don't have the offensive talent of Texas' first two opponents, so the Longhorns should show progress defensively. The Texas offense could also get a boost from Thompson, especially since the Owls have surrendered 5.76 yards per play this year, which places Rice just 16 spots higher on the FBS leaderboard than the Horns. After last week's loss, and with Big 12 Conference play on the horizon, expect Texas to bounce back with a convincing win.
Prediction: Texas 42, Rice 14
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