The No. 12 ranked Texas Longhorns head into Week 3 looking to bounce back from a loss to the LSU Tigers, and to get a bit healthier before starting conference play. Rice is coming off a loss of its own in Week 2 to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Texas will have the opportunity to face Rice very close to home, at NRG Stadium (the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans) this weekend.
However, there are notable trends that college football fans can see from Rice in their first two weeks of action. Since Rice is a Conference USA team that has struggled in the past three years in a big way, they didn’t have to put together what ended up being such a difficult non-conference schedule. Rice had to face the Army Black Knights in the regular-season opener. Army was a missed 50-yard field goal away from upsetting a top 10 team in the Michigan Wolverines on the road.
Then in Week 2, Rice took on what promises to be a seven-to-nine win team in the Demon Deacons on the road on Friday night. Rice actually hung with Wake Forest early on. At the end of the first quarter, Wake Forest and Rice were tied at 10. It wasn’t really until the second and third quarters that Wake Forest started to pull away in what amounted to a 41-21 win for the boys in black and gold.
We can look back at Rice’s first two games of the regular season and learn a lot for how the Longhorns can gameplan for this Week 3 non-conference matchup.
Getting ahead early provides a decisive advantage
The Longhorns have depth issues right now at a number of positions on both sides of the ball. Whether it be running back or cornerback, the Longhorns were exposed last week in the 45-38 loss at home to LSU. Getting Rice at a “neutral site” this weekend is huge since it provides Texas with a chance to get healthier and get some confidence back. Rice held strong with Army and Wake Forest in the first half of each game.
Getting ahead early will be a challenge, but Rice tends to fade as the game moves along. This is a good opportunity for head coach Tom Herman to get his younger players early playing time.
Rice’s run defense is weak
In their first two weeks of action, Rice allowed more than 200 rushing yards per game and more than 5.0 yards per carry. Wake Forest’s starting running back Kenneth Walker III went for 125 rushing yards and one score on just nine carries. Rice is also prone to giving up the big play due to their lack of speed all almost every level of the defense (Walker III had a long run of 96 yards last week). The Longhorns’ speed could allow them to run away with this one. Watch out for Keaontay Ingram to have a bounce back performance in Week 3.
Pass Rush could be in for a big game
One of the most notable parts of the box score between Wake Forest and Rice was the fact that the pocket for the Owls was collapsing all day long. Wake Forest managed eight tackles for loss, four sacks, and two additional quarterback hurries in this 20-point victory. When Wake Forest wasn’t getting to the quarterback, they were breaking up a lot of passes, five on the day. The Longhorns secondary and defensive line could get it rolling early on in Week 3 against a Rice offensive line at a huge disadvantage.
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