Previewing Week 1: Texas


You're counting down the days, I'm sure. We're so close, and yet so far from the season's opening weekend. I can't wait for it, and I'm sure every player in the Big 12 can't either. So, despite being a bit far off, we'll take a look at each team's opener, inspired by our friends over at the Big Ten blog.

We started this series at the top of the alphabet, and it's time for the Longhorns.

Texas Longhorns

Week 1 Opponent: Rice

Coach: David Bailiff, fifth year (19-30)

2010 record: 4-8 (3-5, Conference USA)

Returning starters: 20 (9 offense, 9 defense, 2 specialists)

About the Owls: Last year's opener against the Owls in Houston for the Longhorns was the first sign things might not be fantastic in Austin. They won somewhat easily, but for the Longhorns, used to racking up 50 and 60 points against the in-state rival from the old SWC while seemingly breaking just a light sweat, the 34-17 win in the season opener should have been a much brighter, bigger red flag.

This year, the Owls will be more experienced while the Longhorns try to find an identity and playmakers on offense, which could make for some surprising early season entertainment.

Quarterback Taylor McHargue got some time behind Nick Fanuzzi last season and returns from injury for his first full season as starter. He'll have his leading rusher (Michigan transfer Sam McGuffie) and two leading pass-catchers (Vance McDonald and Luke Willson).

McGuffie is a shifty back that racked up 947 yards on the ground last season with six scores, complemented by Jeremy Eddington, who rushed for 359 yards and 10 scores on just 59 carries.

McGuffie also caught a team-leading 39 passes for 384 yards and three scores.

The defense also returns five of its top six tacklers, as well as the defense's leader, defensive lineman Scott Solomon.

Random factoid: On September 12, 1962, president John. F. Kennedy delivered a speech to 35,000 people at Rice's stadium in Houston, using the Owls' football team as an analogy for America's efforts to reach the moon.

"But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

Later that season, Rice tied Texas, 14-14 in the lone tie of an all-time series that stands at 70-21-1 in favor of Texas.

America, by the way, figured out that whole Moon thing, too.

Totally unscientific percentage chance Texas wins: 81 percent. Rice knows its offensive identity, while there will be plenty of learning to do for the Longhorns, despite a really strong front seven on defense. Don't rule out the possibility of an upset, especially if Texas ends up having to use a couple quarterbacks.

More Week 1 previews: