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BON Round Table: Can Texas avoid a hangover from the LSU loss?

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Texas has topped the Owls 13 consecutive times, and the BON staff expects that streak to continue on Saturday.

LSU v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

On Saturday evening at NRG Stadium in Houston, the Texas Longhorns’ non-conference slate will come to a close against the Rice Owls.

Texas enters the matchup aiming to bounce back from a thrilling 45-38 loss to the LSU Tigers, but remain one of the nation’s top teams, owning the No. 12 spot in the AP Top 25. The Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to discuss what type of performance we should expect to see following that effort, which Longhorn is next to put forth a breakout performance, and more.

Given that Texas was a missed opportunity or two away from beating what’s now the No. 4 team in the nation, are you more or less optimistic about the Longhorns’ upside after the LSU game?

Cody Daniel — I’m leaning towards more given the firepower the offense showcased in the second half and how close Texas came to winning if it weren’t for a few missed opportunities. If Todd Orlando can shore things up defensively, the Longhorns will be a tough out going forward.

Wes Crochet — The goal to compete for and win the Big 12 Conference is still ahead and achievable and the sky is not falling for Texas, either. Adjustments can be made on offense and defense for this team to get back on track and achieve that goal.

Evan Kirschner — Optimistic, of course. I’m still worried about the defense, but it’s hard not to be optimistic overall after last week’s game.

Gerald Goodridge — I think I’m somehow more optimistic, because Texas was a few inches from being in a completely different game. LSU could end up being one of the best teams in the country and Texas went punch for punch with them.

Given that the Rice game isn’t one that demands much hype, do you expect a hangover from LSU loss or will Texas come out, play pissed off, and assert its dominance?

Cody — Statement. Based on the staff’s and player’s responses this week, I think Texas is looking at this game as a chance to improve and take another step towards its goals, which remain entirely intact. The energy won’t match the LSU game, but the execution should still be there to allow the Horns to build an early lead.

Wes — I don’t know that I would say pissed off, though I do see Texas coming out and playing a consistent football game all the way through to leave Houston with a comfortable win.

Evan — Can it be somewhere in the middle? I don’t think Texas blows the doors off of Rice, but I don’t think it’ll be close, either. I’m predicting a three or four score win for Texas -- short of the spread in Vegas but not nearly close enough to give Texas fans a heart attack.

Gerald — I really think this team does a good job of compartmentalizing and moving on. I do think they’ll make a statement, simply because they overmatch Rice.

With this being Texas’ final outing before Big 12 play, what are the most glaring areas the Longhorns need to improve upon before Oklahoma State comes to town?

Cody — The secondary is the obvious answer after allowing 471 yards to LSU and 340 to Louisiana Tech. But I’d also like to see Texas emphasize its ground game a bit more to help get Keaontay Ingram into a rhythm — he has just 19 carries in two games. And Sam Ehlinger hasn’t quite been in sync with some of his receivers — namely, Jake Smith — which has led to the Longhorns leaving plenty of yards and some points on the field. They’ll need all of those in Big 12 play.

Wes — Todd Orlando needs to get on the same page with what his defense can handle versus how he wants to defend offenses. That, and a focus to get a few key players on offense involved more consistently.

Evan — Defense defense defense. Particularly pass rush (non-existent) and defense back play (inexperienced, and now banged up without Foster).

Gerald — I need Keaontay Ingram to get into a rhythm. His ability to take pressure off of Ehlinger in the ground game will open up more options for the offense with play action and RPOs.

Devin Duvernay, Brennan Eagles, Sam Cosmi, and Joseph Ossai each emerged as breakout candidates throughout the first two weeks. Which name will we be adding to that list after Saturday?

Cody — I’ll go back to Keaontay Ingram, the popular preseason pick. I still believe he’s in for a breakout sophomore season, and going against a Rice defense that’s allowed 200-plus rushing yards in each of the first two games is a perfect time for Ingram to find his footing and establish a level of comfort entering conference play.

Wes — By nature of depth, or lack thereof, safety Chris Brown will be a player showing up more. And offensively, Roschon Johnson showed he has potential to be a consistent contributor at running back.

Evan — Keontay Ingram had a game to forget last week. I think he bounces back, but I also think Herman and Beck lean on backup QB-turned-RB Roschon Johnson a bit more. He’s looked the part of a change of pace runner in limited time, and in a game Texas should be leading big, I can see Johnson getting plenty of touches.

Gerald — Jake Smith was targeted twice and took the one he came up with for a TD. In two consecutive weeks if Ehlinger puts a ball in front of him, Smith walks into the end zone. I don’t expect the bad ball placement to continue.

Collin Johnson has been especially quiet to start season, but Rice really struggled with Wake Forest’s big WR’s, especially Scotty Washington (7 rec, 158 yards, 2 TD). Will Johnson finally re-arrive on Saturday just in time for conference play?

Cody — Brennan Eagles and Devin Duvernay each have 100-yard games to their names this seasons. I think Collin Johnson joins the group on Saturday with a handful of grabs.

Wes — Wake Forest receivers ran some box out drills against Rice and it worked. Johnson can do the same, though Texas should also move him around the formation some.

Evan — Yes, please and thank you. 140 yards and two scores for CJ. Book it.

Gerald — I think so. Teams will continue to cover with multiple DBs him, so he needs to show that he can handle that level of pressure. It’s not going to get any easier through the season.

Texas is clearly the superior team on paper, but what could allow Rice to hang around in Houston?

Cody — As Todd Orlando said this week, Rice wants to run the ball and shorten the game. If the Owls can keep Texas’ offense sidelined by actually having success running, and in turn, burn Texas for a couple big gains off of play action, it could get too close for comfort. That said, don’t expect it to happen.

Wes — Defense giving up big chunk plays and the offense failing to convert third downs and playing sloppy football.

Evan — The Longhorn offense is going up against an awful Rice defense, so they’ll need an LSU-sized hangover to not deliver. Meanwhile, Texas players will eventually break down on defense due to being on the field too much. They’ll start taking turns “cramping” in an effort to slow Rice down, giving their offense time to regroup and draw up plays.

Gerald — The Longhorns’ history of playing down to their opponents in recent history coupled with a hangover could keep Rice in the game.

Prediction time: Does Texas bounce back and re-build some momentum entering Big 12 play?

Cody — Yes, without much of an issue. Texas - 41, Rice - 10.

Wes — The Longhorns really need to. Texas 45, Rice 7.

Evan — In the words of late President John F. Kennedy, “Why does Rice play Texas?” Longhorns win 41-14.

Gerald — 35-3 Texas, with the starters sitting a big chunk of the second half.