Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M Aggies have been one of the more publicized teams this offseason and for not-so-good reasons. The university and coach Sumlin suspended Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel for just one half of the first football game for the autograph signing scandal. While it might be looked at as a black eye for the school, they are still one of the top squads in the nation.
On the other side of the field, the Rice Owls will be playing in what might become the most-watched game in the school’s history. The Owls are coming off a 7-6 season under head coach David Bailiff and will be looking to take advantage of Manziel’s first-half absence — even though they likely won’t be able to.
Texas A&M’s offense was one of the best in the nation a season ago and they are returning six starters to that stellar unit. Manziel will be one of the favorites to win the Heisman again and Mike Evans will be helping him out big-time as a 1,000-yard receiver from 2012 with five touchdowns. Ben Malena has been working out ferociously all season long to be a bruising running back as well.
Rice had a pretty decent offense in 2012, averaging 427 yards and 31.8 points per game. Starting quarterback Taylor McHargue will be back to lead the offense after a season in which he passed for 2,209 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Most of the top offensive weapons are back — nine starters on this side of the ball overall.
On the other side of the ball, Rice allowed just one less yard defensively, 426, than they gained offensively, 427, per game in 2012. They had one of the lower-tier defenses in the FBS, but they do return 10 starters to the unit. The Aggies weren’t one of the top defenses in the SEC. In fact, they ranked in the bottom half of the conference in almost every defensive category and it might get worse as they return just five starters.
Rice will be traveling to Texas A&M to take on the Aggies at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31. The game will be aired on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Rice 13, Texas A&M 42
Related: SEC Week One Preview