This week Texas takes on Rice, a team that has won just six games over the past three seasons. The Owls lost both of their games to start the 2019 season, although they gave Army a good run in the season opener. The Longhorns will have a good opportunity back on track this Saturday.
Here’s how this week’s matchup could go:
Texas wins if …
… the running game can rebound.
While freshman running back Roschon Johnson has been a pleasant surprise since his transition to the position, last week featured a lackluster performance from the unit as a whole. Sophomore Keaontay Ingram dropped a sure touchdown catch, and never recovered during the game. This led to more carries for Johnson, who performed well with limited experience. The leading rusher for the team ended up being junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, which goes to show the lack of effectiveness from the running back position. The Longhorns need to use the Rice game as a tuneup before the start of Big 12 play. In order to move forward with a more balanced attack on offense, the running game will have to recover.
… it shows up motivated.
As heartbreaking as the loss to LSU was, Texas has to stay motivated in games like this. The Big 12 Championship is still a very realistic goal, and the College Football Playoff is still potentially within reach. A loss to Rice would destroy confidence moving forward into Big 12 play, and would effectively eliminate Texas from Playoff contention. If the Longhorns show up to NRG Stadium in Houston ready to play like they did in Week One against Louisiana Tech, they should be able to pull off the victory.
Texas loses if …
… the team gets behind early.
Allowing teams to get an early lead at home is a dangerous situation. The home fans get invigorated, the team plays harder and hope fills the air, especially when facing a ranked team. While they will technically be playing at a neutral site, the Longhorns are on the road for the first time this year — and that kind of an environment could be treacherous. Rice is playing this game with house money, and after falling behind early last week against LSU, the Longhorns struggled to fight back, never regaining the lead. If Texas allows the Owls to jump out to a first quarter lead, that could spell trouble for the Longhorns.
… the secondary doesn’t show improvement
After a strong performance in Week One, the secondary regressed significantly against a much higher level talent last week. Sophomore defensive back Jalen Green and the entire unit had a rough day in the office as they struggled to contain the athletic LSU receivers. Joe Burrow connected with seven different receivers for a total of 471 throwing yards. LSU receiver Justin Jefferson led the way, scorching the secondary with nine receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn’t the only Tiger who went off, though. Ja’Marr Chase also hauled in eight passes for 147 yards. Sophomore safety Caden Sterns and senior safety Brandon Jones held their own, but the entire unit has to play well together. If the Longhorns want to rebound against the Owls, there has to be an improvement on defense. That starts with the secondary.