The 2023 college football is fast approaching, and the hype for Texas football in Year 3 of the Steve Sarkisian era is high. The Longhorns bring back 17 starters from a 2022 squad that won eight games and had flashes of greatness. Those flashes must become more consistent if the Horns want to leave their mark during their final season in the Big 12.
In July, Texas was selected atop the Big 12 Media Preseason Poll for the first time since 2009. The Horns received 41 of 63 first-place votes, ahead of Kansas State’s 14 and the four received by Oklahoma and Texas Tech. This solidified Texas as the program to beat in the Big 12 this fall.
The Longhorns first took the field for fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 2. The hype for Texas football and the 2023 season has grown with every passing practice. It would be apropos to take a game-by-game look at the Longhorns’ 2023 opponents, diving into every aspect of what Texas will face this fall.
The Horns open their 2023 campaign on Sept. 2 inside Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium against the Rice Owls. The game kicks off at 2:30 PM CT and will be shown on FOX. According to ESPN’s matchup predictor, the Horns open up as a 35.5 point and have a 98.3 percent chance to beat the Owls.
Here is everything you need to know about the 2023 Rice Owls and their matchup against Texas.
How Texas football stacks up against the Rice Owls
Rice was among the many schools that moved up this offseason. After 18 seasons in Conference USA, Rice and five of its C-USA counterparts jumped at the opportunity to move to the American Athletic Conference this offseason. The AAC has regularly been the sixth-best conference in college football and will provide the Rice football program with a much more lucrative TV deal. That said, the competition will also be a step up, which should concern a team that has not won more than five games since 2014.
Mike Bloomgren is entering his sixth season as the head coach of the Rice Owls. He holds a 16-39 record during his tenure but is coming off his best season (5-8). Despite the (relative) success last year, Bloomgren enters the 2023 season on the hot seat as he tries to navigate the move to the AAC.
The Owls were selected 12th out of 14 teams in the AAC Media Preseason Poll. Although the expectations are not high, this Rice roster does have a few names that should be familiar to Texas fans.
Rice reeled in former USC, Georgia, and West Virginia quarterback JT Daniels in the transfer portal this offseason. Daniels has compiled nearly 7,000 passing yards and 45 touchdowns during 18 starts over the previous four seasons. Last season, he threw for 253 yards and a touchdown in a loss against the Longhorns.
A former Power Five starter like Daniels was a massive get for Coach Bloomgren and this Rice program. Daniels will not lack skilled targets in 2023 as the Owls bring back over 105 receptions, 1,500 yards, and 16 touchdowns from the duo of Bradley Rozner and Luke McCaffrey. The running back position is a little more of a question mark. Upperclassmen Juma Otoviana and Dean Connors will get the brunt of the work, but the duo combined for just 531 yards last year on 99 attempts.
Rice will be a pass-first team in 2023, which will be tested in Week One. Daniels and his receivers must have a big day to keep the Owls in this one for over a quarter.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Owls bring back their top three tacklers in linebackers Chris Conti and Myron Morrison and safety Gabriel Taylor. That said, Coach Bloomgren has to replace seven starters from his 2022 defensive unit.
Last year, Rice gave up 538 yards and 66 points in their Week One loss to USC. It did not get much better throughout the season. The 2022 Owls finished the year ranked 80th in total defense and gave up 30 or more points in eight games. They have some speed on the outside but will have trouble matching up against the size and physicality of the Texas front.
Week 1 of the college football season is always exciting, regardless of opponent. With such high expectations and a Week Two top-ten battle looming in Tuscaloosa, I expect Coach Sarkisian to put his foot on the pedal early in this one. The goal for Coach Sark and the Horns will be to get the starters out of this game early into the second half to avoid injury. I would not be shocked to see a few highlights from Daniels and the Rice receivers, but it should have little effect on the outcome.
– Rice 13 Texas 55