Rice football opens its 2023 season in Austin against the Texas Longhorns this week. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Texas Longhorns have sky-high expectations entering the 2023 season. Many tabbed the burnt orange squad as favorites to win the Big 12 conference and some went as far as to label the ‘horns a darkhorse Playoff contender.
On the other side of the field, the Owls look to play spoiler and added another signature win to Mike Bloomgren’s resume which already features a road upset of a top 15 squad, that came against Marshall in 2020. Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s matchup between Rice and Texas.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Texas on this week’s episode of the Blue and Gray Preview Show, streaming live on Wednesday at Noon on the Rice Athletics YouTube channel. Look for a recap of the game on the site afterward as well as on The Roost Podcast, which should be released early next week. Find us on the podcast page or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. (And consider leaving us a 5-star review while you’re at it.)
Sizing up the contenders
Texas will enter the game as heavy favorites, boasting a No. 11 national ranking and winners of 15 in a row in their series with Rice. The Longhorns had best be careful not to be caught looking ahead to their Week 2 game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Bloomgren and Co. have a Top 15 upset under their belt already, knocking off a previously undefeated Marshall team on the road in 2020.
All Time | Texas leads 74-21-1
Last Five | Texas leads, 5-0
Last Meeting | Away 2021, Texas won 58-0
Get the Inside Scoop
Get access to practice reports, analysis and special features during the week when you subscribe to our Starting Lineup Tier on Patreon today. If you want updates on how Rice football plans to attack this week’s opponent, position battles, standouts, injuries and more, this is your go-to source. Don’t miss out! Join now!
Rice Football Stat Notables (2022 stats)
Passing | Daniels (at WVU) – 200/327 (61.2 percent), 2107 yards, 13 TD, 9 INT
Rushing | Otoviano – 71 carries, 403 yards (5.7 yards per carry), 1 TD / Connors – 27 carries, 128 yards (4.7 yards per carry), 0 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 58 receptions, 723 yards (12.5 yds/rec), 6 TDs / Campbell – 17 receptions, 192 yards (11.3 yds/rec), 0 TD
Tackles | Conti – 75 / Morrison – 73 / Taylor – 60
Pass Breakups | Dunbar – 10 / Taylor – 6 / Fresch – 5
Interceptions | Taylor, Morrison – 2 / Fresch, Narcisse – 1
Texas Stat Notables (2022 stats)
Passing | Ewers – 172/296 (58.1 percent), 2177 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT
Rushing | Brooks – 30 carries, 197 yards (6.6 yards per carry), 5 TD / Robinson – 25 carries, 86 yards (3.4 ypc), 0 TD
Receiving | Worthy – 60 receptions, 760 yards (12.7 yards per reception), 9 TD / Whittington – 50 receptions, 652 yards (13.0 yds/rec), 1 TD
Tackles | Ford – 119 / Thompson – 83 / Barron – 78
Pass Breakups | Thompson – 7 / Sweat – 5 / Barron, Watts – 3
Interceptions | Ford – 4 / Barron – 2 / Watts, Thompson – 1
Texas X-Factor | Play clean
The sheer athleticism of the Texas offense will put them in an advantageous position against most teams they face this season, but talent alone doesn’t win football games. That requires execution. For the most part, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers excelled at that aspect of the game. He protected the football and did not throw many interceptions — just six in 10 appearances. Ewers’ worst outing of last season came against Oklahoma State. He tossed three picks and the Longhorns lost.
Most upsets require some luck. If Texas brings their A game, it’ll be tough for Rice to overcome. But if the Longhorns look rusty, commit turnovers and find themselves in penalty troubles, things could get interesting. The longer the game stays within striking distance, the better the Owls’ chances get.
Rice X-Factor | Control the clock and be clutch
Rice does not want to get into a slugfest with Texas. They want to have a rock fight. The Owls’ longstanding aspirations of ground and pound will be tested against the Longhorns’ front seven, but the key success factor isn’t the run itself, it’s maintaining position. Rice will look to extend drives, kill the clock and turn a 12-possession game into an eight-possession game. If Rice can capitalize on some of those extended drives, they’ll be right where they need to be.
Having quarterback JT Daniels at the helm should aid this effort. Going down to the wire with a proven passer at the helm should embolden the Owls to stick to the script at trust their signal caller to make the plays when they need to be made. Daniels doesn’t have to be perfect, but if he’s going to engineer this size of an upset, he’s going to have to pull a few wow moments out of his bag.
Injury Report (Subscribers only)
One Final Thing
Why does Rice play Texas? Sorry, Mr. President, these days the Owls and Longhorns meet on the gridiron so that the team from Houston and collect a nice check from the folks in Austin. Were it not for that generous transaction, this game wouldn’t be played as frequently as it has been over the last several seasons. But a money game doesn’t predetermine the outcome, far from it, that still requires 60 minutes of action on the field of play.
The Owls are heavy underdogs and won’t be expected to win this one, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty still to play for on Saturday. For one, an upset would send shockwaves throughout the nation and shatter the Longhorns’ College Football Playoff hopes before Labor Day.
Beyond that, though, conference play will be here before we know it and the Owls still have their sights on six-plus wins and a second consecutive bowl trip. Getting quality reps in a hostile atmosphere will enable younger players to get their feet wet, gaining crucial experience for the long season ahead. There is no substitution for the game itself, and Rice has plenty of new faces that will be seeing live bullets in large quantities for the first or second time.
Winning is the goal, with a healthy football team also atop the list of things Rice wants to walk away from Austin with on Saturday. But playing a good game, a well-executed game with things to build on for the future, that’s going to pay dividends, too.
Subscribe on Patreon for exclusive Rice football recruiting updates, practice notes and more.