Who really knows what to expect from the Texas Longhorns home opener tonight at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium against the Rice Owls? Of course, it’s easy to expect the Longhorns to right the ship – at least to some extent – after their opening week embarrassment in South Bend and even their season schedule at 1-1 with a victory, but after their debut performance, or lack thereof, even a narrow one-possession victory likely wouldn’t surprise many.
Only one game into the season, head coach Charlie Strong relieved Shawn Watson of his offensive play-calling duties after what was expected to be a new-look, high-octane spread offense produced only three points and 163 yards of total offense – horrid enough to rank dead last in the entire nation offensively -- and handed the reins to offseason hire Jay Norvell.
Norvell spent the last seven seasons on board with the hated Oklahoma Sooners, including four as the offensive coordinator before being fired last year, but his experience orchestrating the spread offense could prove to be invaluable to Strong during this crucial second season if he can find a way to lead a fairly stagnant offense to some points – more than three for sure. Junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is still expected to start at this point, but the change in offensive play caller could soon result in redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard taking over the Texas offense.
History suggests the favorite in this matchup is a no-brainer – the Longhorns lead the overall series with Rice 71-21-1. Outside of a disaster tonight in Austin, that record should improve to 72-21-1, but with virtually everything about the Longhorns being about trial and error and simply trying to find something that works, both offensively and defensively – a disaster wouldn’t be the most shocking thing to see.
Fortunately for Texas, Rice is far from being considered amongst the very best in college football as Notre Dame was last week, and DKR will be much more welcoming to this bunch of youthful Longhorns than South Bend was in week one. With more questions than answers right now for Texas, I think the only thing for certain is that the heralded freshman linebacker, Malik Jefferson is going to hit someone…hard.
How to watch, listen and stream
TV: Saturday, Sept. 12, 8:00 p.m. ET, LHN
Radio: Texas – KTXX FM 104.9 (Austin), among other locals, Sirius Ch. 116, XM Ch. 202, and Sirius XM/Internet Ch. 969.
Online Streaming: WatchESPN
Weather: High of 88 degrees / Low of 64 degrees, Preciitation 20%
Bovada Betting Odds: Texas (-16)
Prediction: Texas: 38, Rice: 10