Inside Texas Rice Game Picks

IT's Bill Frisbie, Ross Lucksinger, Mike Blackwell, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross and Longhorn Great Pat Culpepper give you their picks, and the reasoning behind those picks, for Saturday's match-up at Reliant Stadium in Houston against the Rice Owls.

Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- The best thing about Texas' game at Rice is that the 5:00 p.m. ESPN2 nationally televised kickoff is in recruiting-rich Houston. And H-Town alums don't have to travel to Austin for a Longhorn 'home game'. Most of all, backup QB Jevan Snead should get some quality snaps against an outmatched opponent. Otherwise, the only area of intrigue is that Owl offensive coordinator Major Applewhite schemes against his alma mater.

Hopefully, this is the game where WLB Drew Kelson (left ankle) finally logs some game-day snaps. There are guys on the defense (especially at linebacker) who are playing for their jobs, and no one on that unit wants to put Gene Chizik in the same kind of mood he was in last Monday. The defense will be breathing fire, and the result should be like it was three years ago this weekend when Texas played Rice at Reliant Stadium following the Horns only other home loss this millennium.

This time last year, the Rice game was RB Jamaal Charles' breakout game. His 189 yards on 16 carries remains his career-best, and he ought to eclipse the century mark Saturday for the first time since last year's OU game even while sharing snaps with new-improved, we-think-he's-finally-well, back-to-the-way-he-was-before-got-injured-and-pushing-Cedric-for-the-starting-job Selvin Young. (We'll say this: Selvin never looked more determined than last week when he averaged 8.5 yards against Ohio State.)

There's no doubt in my mind that, within the next decade or so, Applewhite is the offensive coordinator at Texas. Until then, it's Greg Davis who will dial-up the vertical routes against the Night Birds. Look for WR Billy Pittman to have a big game. And can Jordan Shipley come out and play? Texas 44, Rice 9.

Ross Lucksinger, Editor -- Major Applewhite is the man to call on if you need a miracle, but even he won't be able to help the Owls on Saturday as they face a Longhorns team that is significantly more talented and also plenty mad from an, ok I'll say it, embarrassing home loss to No. 1 Ohio State.

Transitioning from the wing formation to winging the ball is never easy for a football program. It's especially hard for a team that went 1-11 the year before and even harder for a team that just lost its starting quarterback. What we'll see on Saturday from Rice with quarterback Joel Armstrong is an amalgamated offense, combining elements from the offense they ran last year and the one they've been practicing all spring and summer. It'll look interesting, but won't result in a lot of points. Rice will look a lot better (certainly better than the team the lost 41-9 to Navy last year), but still has a ways yet to go. Both teams already know what the final result's going to be, so each will use this as an opportunity to figure out what works and what won't.

The Texas offense, still struggling to find its way, will recommit to running the ball and primarily grind this game out on the ground. It's not quite the Horns 51-10 clobbering of Rice from last year, but it'll do. Texas 35, Rice 10.

Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- You know it, I know it, Texas knows it, Rice knows it. The Longhorns will win Saturday in Houston. They'll win because of the great disparity in talent between the two teams, obviously, but they'll also win because the Burnt Orange has been in a bad humor all week.

Though it can't be confirmed – what with closed practices and all – we can probably guess that Gene Chizik spent his week expressing his displeasure to his defensive players after last week's decisive loss to Ohio State. That does not bode well for the Owls, who are now under the direction of new head coach Todd Graham.

It definitely doesn't bode well for the Owls' offense that doesn't yet know if its injured quarterback, Chase Clement, will even play on Saturday. A talented and angry defensive squad facing a backup quarterback will mean bad news for Rice and its new offensive coordinator, Texas-ex Major Applewhite.

Texas will blitz everyone except Dana X. Bible Saturday, and you can expect sacks and fumbles and all kinds of chaos in the Rice backfield. The Longhorns were embarrassed by the manner in which they lost last week, and they are undoubtedly sick of watching the tape, which has been shown often by the Texas coaching staff. Anything less than a shutout will be a disappointment.

Offensively, Colt McCoy probably feels a little like Chizik. For the first time in his two-week career, he's heard the doubters. The game against Rice gives him a chance to soothe them a little, at least for a week or so. He'll throw the ball downfield, and he'll throw it to his tight ends, and then Jevan Snead will do the same when he enters the game.

Either Jamaal Charles or Selvin Young – or both – will have a monster game, and Henry Melton will gain a much-needed confidence boost by running wild during mop-up time. Texas 42, Rice 0.

Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- It's hard to believe Texas fans will have to be rooting against Major Applewhite on Saturday evening.

Easily one of the most beloved Longhorns ever, Applewhite, with his red hair, freckles and ordinary size and arm strength, seemed like an unlikely player to become a Texas legend, but his "Greatest Hits" in a Burnt Orange jersey are an amazing collection.

A few of my favorites: the underarm fling to Wane McGarity with 2:47 to go in 1998 at Lincoln that slew the Goliath Cornhuskers in their impregnable stadium -- a play in which he got knocked silly. The 97-yard strike from out of the shadow of his own goal posts, also to McGarity, in a 34-3 rout of OU that same year, Texas' longest TD pass ever. His relief appearance in the Big 12 title game against Colorado in 2001 when he led Texas to an almost miraculous come-from-behind victory before finally falling 39-37 to the Buffs. His first pass went for a 79-yard TD to B.J. Johnson. And then of course in his final game at Texas, Applewhite went 37 of 55 for 473 yards and four TDs as the Horns beat Washington 47-43. I still get chills as I remember watching Applewhite as the time expired in that game, as I thought of all he had been through at Texas and what must have been in his mind as the seconds ticked off on the Horns' biggest comeback victory ever, his last in a Texas uniform.

Applewhite's Texas career got sidetracked of course with the signing of Chris Simms. Loyalties to one or the other of the two quarterbacks divided the Burnt Orange nation. I witnessed numerous heated arguments among friends debating whether Applewhite or Simms was the best quarterback to lead the team, sometimes escalating into shouting matches. But the fact that Applewhite worked as a graduate assistant at Texas and still calls and talks to Greg Davis regularly lets you know he has no lasting hard feelings about how things worked out for him.

As Rice offensive coordinator, Applewhite will lead his new team against his old one Saturday night. The Owls will move the football some on Texas, but with Major only calling the plays and not executing them, they'll find points hard to come by. Meanwhile, Texas will begin the post-Ohio State process of trying to find an identity. Behind a steady ground attack and a few big strikes to Limas Sweed, the Horns will roll to another lopsided drubbing of the undermanned Owls. After Saturday, here's wishing Major and Rice huge success the rest of their season. Texas 41, Rice 10.

Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher -- From what I've seen on the site this week, there's been a bit of an overreaction to the Ohio State loss, at least in terms of what it means for this week's Rice game. The Owls are not a threat to beat the Horns, and, if things go as I expect them to, it won't be close. Of course, I also expected Texas to beat the Buckeyes, and we all know how that turned out. The difference, of course, is the fact that Ohio State is one of the best offensive football teams in the country, and could well be a top tier defensive team as well. Rice is neither of those things. Not even close.

The Owls have played respectably in two season opening losses (31-30 to Houston and 26-16 on the road to UCLA), but the Rice offense managed just a bit over 200 yards per game against those middling defenses, and has relied pretty heavily on long runs and an occasional long pass for its yards. Those runs are going to come a lot tougher against a Texas defense that held the Buckeye ground game to well under a hundred yards (with a long of 12), and held North Texas to under a hundred total yards. So the Rice offense will be held in check by Gene Chizik's reinvigorated defense (with Tarell Brown back on the field, and -- knock on wood -- the '06 debut of both Drew Kelson and Sergio Kindle).

Whether this game is a blowout or simply a comfortable victory will depend on the Texas offense. Do the Texas coaches, as is their history, remove the offensive shackles when the opponent is subpar? My bet is yes, we'll see some of the more daring plays that we saw during spring and August practice but that, sadly, remained safely tucked away when the Buckeyes came to town. And the Horns are simply going to be more explosive at running back and wide receiver when going up against these private school kids. Texas 40, Rice 6.

Pat Culpepper, Special to Inside Texas -- Texas 38, Rice 10.

Average of IT Members Picks -- Texas 48, Rice 10.

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