Rice: 'Might as well play the best'

Updated: August 29, 2013, 5:28 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Rice Owls aren't going to change their game plan for No. 7 Texas A&M just because Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel will be on the bench for the first half as a result of a suspension.

"Johnny Manziel didn't win that Heisman by himself. A&M is loaded," Rice coach David Bailiff told ESPN's Mark Schwarz on Thursday. "We're not even talking about that. We'll be talking about their offensive line, all over 300 pounds, and they move like tight ends. We all watched the Manziel story on 'SportsCenter,' but I'll tell you one thing, we're not going to let it be the focal point."

The NCAA and A&M announced the one-half suspension Wednesday as a result of an investigation into whether Manziel took money for signing autographs.

"We know he's one of the best in the country," Bailiff told the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday. "If you are going to go there, you might as well play the best."

In Manziel's absence, the Aggies will start junior Matt Joeckel or freshman Kenny Hill. Joeckel is more of a pocket passer, and Hill is a dual-threat quarterback.

"We'll prepare for Johnny, we'll prepare for Hill, we'll prepare for Joeckel," Bailiff said. "Whichever quarterback they put out there, we've got to beat A&M, not just one guy.

"We have to make sure Rice football gets better. We have to make sure Rice football is a better team in the fourth quarter than we are in the first quarter."

Added Rice safety Paul Porras: "We're playing Texas A&M. Whoever is snapping the ball and playing, we're going to go against him."

Rice will be without cornerback Phillip Gaines after the Conference USA preseason defensive player of the year violated a team rule. Starting linebacker Cameron Nwosu also will be out as he's recovering from knee surgery.

The Owls have brought back 19 starters from last season's squad, which went 7-6 and made the program's first bowl appearance in four years. They beat Air Force 33-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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