Previewing Texas A&M Aggies vs. Rice Owls

By Scott Page
johnny manziel
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Though many contend that Texas A&M’s 2013 season really opens on Sept. 14 when No. 1 Alabama rolls into College Station, the Aggies do actually play two games prior to that highly anticipated contest. In Week 1, Texas A&M welcomes fellow Texas school Rice to the not-so-friendly confines of Kyle Field on Saturday, Aug. 31.

The Corps of Cadets will march, Yell Practice will be held and the 12th Man will have the grandstands rocking in College Station this weekend. It’s football season in Aggieland!

The opponents in this game, which used to be heated rivals, are anything but evenly-matched, making for a somewhat lackluster storyline. In reality, this game is all about redemption for one young man – Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel – and the millions of college football fans who cannot wait to see him take the field.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. (EDT) and will be aired on ESPN. Nobody is more ready for that to happen than Manziel. Well, maybe except his head coach, Kevin Sumlin. The returning Heisman Trophy winner had a forgettable offseason chock full of questionable decisions. But as past experience shows, nothing helps erase those memories faster than dazzling crowds on Saturday – something Johnny Football is accustomed to doing. And Manziel will likely not disappoint in Week 1 against a severely over-matched Owls defense.

Rice has allowed at least 48 points in a game 35 times since the start of the 2000 season, which doesn’t bode well against an offense that racked up more than 44 points per contest last season. Making matters worse is the fact Rice will be without its top two defensive players. Coach David Bailiff said linebacker Cameron Nwosu is out with a knee injury that has forced him to miss preseason camp. Cornerback Phillip Gaines, the Conference USA preseason defensive player of the year, is serving a one-game suspension for violation of a team rule.

Manziel and Texas A&M’s high-powered offense will have an even easier time lighting up the scoreboard, and they’ll do just that. The Aggies return 11 starters from last year’s 11-win team, including a pair of first-team All-Americans in Manziel and offensive tackle Jake Matthews, as well as Manziel’s favorite target, WR Mike Evans. A&M returns six offensive starters and five starters on defense, as well as placekicker Taylor Bertolet.

The Aggies enter 2013 at No. 6 in the Associated Press poll, the highest preseason AP ranking for the Texas A&M since 1999 when it also started at No. 7. This team is a legitimate SEC West contender and should make quick work of the Owls, which used to be one of the Aggies’ biggest rivals.

Rice and Texas A&M first met in football in 1914, and a year later the two schools were part of the original group of eight institutions that formed the Southwest Conference. This game marks the first between the two since the breakup of the Southwest Conference in 1996. This series is still notable because it represents the longest active winning streak Texas A&M has against a Division I opponent – 15 games. There’s no reason to believe the streak won’t extend to 16 in a few days.

The Aggies lead the series 50-27-3. By late Saturday afternoon, A&M will have notched win No. 51 against Rice and sent the 2013 campaign off on a positive trajectory. The Aggies host Sam Houston State in Week 2.

Scott Page is an SEC football writer for Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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