Is there a season debut that will come under more scrutiny than Johnny Manziel's? Last year's Heisman winner will sit out the first half of Texas A&M's season opener versus Rice while serving a suspension, but he should get a chance to prove himself starting in the third quarter.
All eyes will be on Manziel, a man who couldn't keep his name out of the news this offseason and enters the 2013 campaign with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
With plenty of talent and the exciting Manziel, Texas A&M is a national title contender. Rice may not have those lofty goals, but the Owls should be in play for a Conference USA championship this year.
Let's break down this season opener between two Texas teams.
When: Saturday, August 31, at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
Spread: Texas A&M (-27), according to Covers.com
Rice Injuries (via USA Today)
LB Cameron Nwosu: Doubtful (Knee)
CB Phillip Gaines: Out (Suspension)
Texas A&M Injuries (via USA Today)
DL Kirby Ennis: Out (Suspension)
DB Floyd Raven: Out for First Half (Suspension)
DB Deshazor Everett: Out for First Half (Suspension)
WR Malcome Kennedy: Questionable (Undisclosed)
QB Johnny Manziel: Out for First Half (Suspension)
What They're Saying
You likely know all about this Texas A&M team. Here's a bit more on Rice, via Lucas Gulotta of NewsObserver.com:
The Owls have 19 of their 22 starters back from a strong campaign that ended with a bowl victory. A weakened Conference USA is only going to benefit them as they vie for their first league title since they were co- champions of the Southwest Conference in 1994.
Bailiff's team will be a serious contender to win the conference if its momentum from last season carries over. The Owls have a very favorable schedule and their non-conference opponents should have them ready to go. The defense was below average last season, so an improvement in that area will be necessary. Rice should finish no lower than second in the West Division, with Tulsa being its only true competitor for a ticket to the conference title game.
Rice may be overmatched in this game, but don't expect them to roll over for the Aggies.
Rice Player to Watch: Taylor McHargue, QB
Against an explosive Texas A&M offense, Rice's best chance to win this game will be turning it into a shootout. And that means starting quarterback Taylor McHargue is going to have to put together one of his finest games ever.
A dual-threat player, McHargue threw for 2,209 yards with 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions, while also rushing for 667 yards and another 11 scores last season.
Texas A&M Player to Watch: Johnny Manziel, QB
Manziel has had just about the most tumultuous offseason a player could have, which certainly means he'll be excited to actually get on the field and play some football. And there is no reason to believe that last year's Heisman winner won't once again be dominant once he's allowed to take the field in the second half.
Manziel should once again post a big season for Texas A&M. It's hard to see Rice slowing him down much in this contest, even if he will only play one half of football.
For all of the offseason drama, Manziel should have a fine second half. Even without him, though, it's hard to imagine Rice keeping pace with the explosive Aggies offense for the first two quarters.
Texas A&M wins 45-17.