Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

UT vs. Rice: Keys to the Game

Rachel Zein

The first week often sees the Longhorns pitted against a weaker program, and this year is no different, as Texas football will kick off its 2023 campaign this Saturday at home against Rice. With a potential upgrade at quarterback and head coach Mike Bloomgren entering his sixth season at the helm with a record of 16–39, the Owls will surely play with some reckless abandon in hopes of blindsiding the Longhorns on their home turf in Rice’s first game as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

Here are three key factors that can power the Longhorns to a 1–0 start in head coach Steve Sarkisian’s pivotal third year.


Shut down JT Daniels

There was once a time in the not so distant past when JT Daniels, who graduated high school a year early to hit the college ranks, was in the first round of NFL mock drafts. However, the path for the former Mater Dei star has gone off the script at this point, as the fifth-year senior has struggled to stay healthy. He will suit up for his fourth school in what may be his last chance to prove himself at the collegiate level.

Daniels will make the trip to Austin for a third time, the first coming in 2018 with USC as a true freshman and last year for West Virginia, going 0–2 in those games as a starter. While his collegiate career has not gone to plan, Daniels is still a talented quarterback, boasting a big arm and quality wins under his belt, most notably his debut with Georgia in 2020, when he led the Bulldogs to a 31-24 win over Mississippi State, logging 28 completions, 401 yards and four touchdowns. 

Coupled with Bloomgren potentially playing for his job, the offense may be empowered to play aggressive, downfield football, an area that Daniels has shown flashes of success in. Texas’ first order of business in beating Rice should be getting pressure on Daniels to prevent him from heating up.


Start making sense of the running back room

The Longhorns have several names vying to prove themselves as the next lead running back, with sophomore Jonathon Brooks expected to draw the start in Saturday’s action. Former Alabama back Keilan Robinson and converted wide receiver Savion Red, figure to fight for checkdowns and spots in passing sets, an area that Bijan Robinson took charge in. 

However, the x-factor in the room may be Cedric Baxter, a five-star true freshman who will no doubt have to prove himself, but may have the highest ceiling of anyone in the room. While Sarkisian has shown he won’t keep his best players off the field regardless of age or experience, he also won’t hand Baxter the starting job out of the gate. Assuming Texas can jump out to an early lead, handoffs should be easy to come by in the second half and will prove valuable for the coaching staff in getting to see what they’ve got in their tailbacks.


Get meaningful reps ahead of Alabama

Assuming Texas secures the victory against Rice, the program should use the game as invaluable experience ahead of what will be one of their toughest tests of the season, a road trip to Tuscaloosa to seek redemption against Alabama. That means fleshing out how Ewers will spread the ball to his plethora of targets, including the debuts of transfer wideouts Adonai Mitchell and Isaiah Neyor. The Longhorns should also aim to give five-star freshman Anthony Hill Jr., who has turned heads in the offseason, all he can handle and gauge what sort of impact they can expect from him. 

Texas should have this game in hand by the start of the third quarter, but can still benefit from a first look at what works and what doesn’t. Rice should stand as a sounding board for Texas to use in preparation for a true test versus the Crimson Tide.

More to Discover