Upsets happen every day in football. Can the Rice Owls find a way to defeat Texas at home?
Week 3's matchup against the Owls is the final dress rehearsal for the Longhorns before the start of Big 12 play. Naturally, Texas playing in its own backyard will be beneficial towards the score, but is it enough to beat the spread.
Rice enters Junes with hope under center. Former Nebraska quarterback Luke McCaffrey heads down to Houston in hopes of salvaging his career with the Owls. And with a roster that could be missing a QB to contend. Can McCaffery be the right guy?
Longhorns Country sat down with JP Heath, the voice of Rice Football, to break down everything Texas fans need to know about Week 3's matchup at DKR.
Longhorns Country: What does the addition of Luke McCaffrey mean to Rice and the quarterback position with Mike Collins now no longer with the program?
JP Heath: There sure is a lot of giddiness around the program. He is a big-time talent and I don’t think it’s a stretch to put him at or near the top of CUSA quarterbacks. Collins’ accuracy will be missed but new OC Marques Tuiasosopo will look to utilize the athleticism of McCaffery, whose brother Christian was coached by Mike Bloomgren at Stanford. Not to be overlooked is Weber State transfer Jake Constantine, who was All-Big Sky conference two times behind center.
LC: The run game seemed mixed last season in five games, but another year under Khalan Griffin's belt seems to be what could be missing. What have you seen through the spring that could make him dangerous in 2021?
JH: He’s just so powerful and able to break it to the outside to get the consistent six or seven-yard gains. His durability is a big plus and he’s a fantastic blocker. What will really help the whole offense is a full season from Juma Otoviano in the backfield.
He’s only played in five games the last two seasons but he’s been a difference-maker when he’s been out there, the best example being a 224-yard game vs ODU as a freshman in 2018.
LC: Austin Trammell is no longer with the program, but Jake Bailey and Jordan Myers seem like a good combination. With the addition of McCaffrey, do you expect their numbers to improve?
JH: No doubt at all. The Sheriff (Trammel) was a special guy. Not to sell those other guys short but I think the huge story is having Bradley Rozner back in the receiving corps. It’s a MASSIVE addition. He has great hands and an over-the-top ability. Bailey is a dynamo. He turned into a good special teams threat and was the go-to receiver last year when Trammel was out.
Myers is one of the super seniors that add a lot of depth and his versatility is unmatched on the team, playing as a short-yardage back and even on special teams and tight end if you can believe it.
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LC: Protection is key on offense. What do you make of the offensive line, and who could be in for a big season?
JH: This is largely an unknown for the big fellas. When Rice had its great conference title team they were stacked upfront. Clay Servin played a lot as an 18-year old freshman three years ago and he was the Owls' highest-graded lineman last season. Tackle Jovaun Woolford decided to stay for his bonus year and I hope to see center Isaac Klarjowski back after not playing last season.
LC: Blaze Alldredge led the team in tackles in back-to-back seasons. With him now with Missouri, who is a name to watch for to take over up the middle.
JH: Blaze was a beast in his time at Rice and we wish him well. But the cupboard isn’t bare at linebacker. Treshawn Chamberlain and Antonio Montero are the veteran guys returning of what’s expected to be a pretty stout defense, especially against the run.
LC: Outside of McCaffery, who is one name that most college football fans won't know, but should after the Texas game?
JH: That’s really a tough question. If you made me pick one I’d say George Nyakwol at safety. I hated not calling his games last year and I’m grateful he decided to come back. He’s a rangy safety with elite athleticism that can cover and should get a chance to play in the NFL.
If I’m allowed to cheat and give you one more name, watch for #55 De'Braylon Carroll at the nose tackle.
LC: Prediction overall without giving a score?
JH: Rice got a historic win at #15 Marshall and won’t be intimidated going into a raucous environment. Yes, as a native of this great state of Texas I understand going into DKR is a tad different than Edwards Stadium in Huntington, WV, but these Owls will not be pushed around.
Their defense is really good and if McCaffery is as good as advertised I think the Owls will be able to move the ball. I predict a competitive game in the second half and for them to turn some heads. I also predict a great pregame meal with some great Texas hospitality before and after the game.
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