Texas A&M vs. Rice Complete Game Preview

Michael Taglienti@@miketag98Featured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2014

Texas A&M vs. Rice Complete Game Preview

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    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    The Texas A&M football team will take on the Rice Owls at Kyle Field on Saturday in a contest between two former Southwest Conference teams. Rice is 0-1 and coming off a bye week after opening the season with a 48-17 loss at Notre Dame.

    The Aggies are 2-0 and ranked No. 7 in the latest AP poll. Texas A&M is coming off a 73-3 win over Lamar. The Aggies will be looking to improve their record to 3-0 and get their young team some more experience against the Owls. 

    Texas A&M has played 14 true freshmen during the first two games of the season. Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff need to continue to give those young players snaps in order to prepare them for the upcoming conference schedule.

    The Rice game will be another opportunity for the Aggies to improve before they enter the meat of their conference schedule. This is a look at how the two teams match up with each other.   

Texas A&M's Keys to Victory

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Texas A&M is a better football team than Rice. They are averaging 62.5 points and 655 yards of total offense per game. If the Aggies show up excited and mentally prepared to play, they will beat the Owls. 

    As long as the Aggies avoid turnovers and major injuries, they will win this game going away. They need to see sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill progress as a quarterback. 

    He has put up tremendous numbers during his first two starts, but he needs to continue to gain experience and work on his timing with his receivers. 

    Rice allowed Notre Dame to rush for 281 yards and four touchdowns in their season opener. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital may use this game to get an extensive look at his running backs. The Aggies have not had a 100-yard rusher in their first two contests. 

    This game really represents an opportunity for the Aggies to get better. If they play with the same enthusiasm and passion that they brought to the field against South Carolina and Lamar, they will win.  

Rice's Keys to Victory

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    Joe Raymond/Associated Press

    In 1994, the Rice Owls lost to Texas A&M 7-0 at Kyle Field. That is the closest the Owls have come to defeating the Aggies in generations. If the Owls want to pull off an upset on Saturday, then they will need to put consistent pressure on Kenny Hill and run the ball effectively for four quarters. 

    It does not matter how good a quarterback is, if he is constantly pressured, he will struggle to be successful for an entire game. If the Owls want to beat the Aggies, then they will need to find a way to harass Hill into making some mistakes. 

    Rice recorded one sack and four tackles for loss against Notre Dame. They will need to do much better than that against the Aggies offensive line if they want to slow the A&M offense down. 

    The best way to defend an explosive offense like Texas A&M's is to keep it on the sideline. If the Owls can run the ball and extend drives, they will be able to keep Hill and his teammates on the sideline where they cannot hurt anyone. 

    The Owls rushed for 141 yards on 40 carries against the Irish. That is 3.5 yards per rush, which will not get it done against A&M. If Rice can force some turnovers and methodically rush for over 200 yards, then they will have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. 

Texas A&M Players to Watch

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Aggies have replaced former offensive stars Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans with an entire new set of playmakers. Aggie quarterback Kenny Hill set the school record for passing yardage in a game during his first career start with 511 yards against South Carolina. 

    Hill is averaging 397 yards passing per game to rank No. 3 overall in the nation. He has passed for seven touchdowns in his first two starts. 

    Speedy Noil was the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in nation in the 2014 recruiting class. He has lived up to the hype during his first two games with nine receptions for 126 yards. Noil also had a 67-yard punt return and a 53-yard kickoff return against Lamar. 

    Noil has not scored his first career touchdown yet, but it appears to be only a matter of time before the explosive athlete finds the end zone. 

    Some people thought that Myles Garrett was the top recruit in the nation in 2014. The true freshman defensive end has been even better than advertised through his first two games. 

    Garrett leads the Aggies with three sacks on the season. He has been a constant presence in the opponent's backfield and is arguably the Aggies' best defensive player. The Aggies have not seen a defensive player impact a game like Garrett does since Von Miller went to the NFL after the 2010 season. 

Rice Players to Watch

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    Joe Raymond/Associated Press

    Driphus Jackson is a dual-threat quarterback for the Owls. He passed for 163 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame while also leading the Owls in rushing with 61 yards on 11 carries. It will be an interesting test for the Texas A&M defense to see how it defends a quarterback who can move around like Jackson. 

    It was only one catch in one game, but Rice freshman wide receiver James Mayden made his first reception count. In his first ever collegiate game, Mayden caught a 53-yard touchdown pass against Notre Dame. The 6'2", 190-pound freshman played his high school football in the Dallas area and will not be intimidated going up against former high school opponents at A&M. 

    Rice safety Gabe Baker led the Owls with six tackles against Notre Dame. He will get a lot of work against the Texas A&M wide receivers. The 6'1", 220-pound senior has the size to hang with the Aggies' taller receivers like Ricky Seals-Jones and Edward Pope. 

What They Are Saying

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Texas A&M Postgame Quotes

    Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill on his goals for the Lamar game: "Come out here and execute the offense and try and take some shots. We did that early. We were trying to take some shots and really open up the games."

    Head coach Kevin Sumlin on the Kyle Field crowd against Lamar: "I was shocked when we walked back out there, just at the atmosphere that many people were still there and ready to go. That was a big deal." 

    Rice Postgame Quotes After Loss to Notre Dame

    Head coach David Bailiff on his team's outlook:

    We'll watch this football tape, and we're going to get better, and I'm glad we opened with a team like Notre Dame. If we want to be the best, you've got to open with the best and I think that's what the University of Notre Dame is, and like I said, we're still dreaming big and we're going to be all right. It's going to be a great '14 for the Rice Owls.

    Senior Safety Gabe Baker on starting the season with tough opponents:

    There are many positives that come from this. I feel like we were a few big plays from making it an even more competitive game. They had two turnovers, we did not have any. On our part, we missed many tackles. Putting all those together would change the game tremendously. These games are all about momentum and I would say right before halftime we turned the ball over and they got a touchdown; that changed the dynamic of the game. Moving forward we have a lot of confidence in what we can do. Limit the mistakes, make tackles, and get turnovers. 

Predicted Outcome

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    This will be another blowout victory for Texas A&M. Aggie fans should expect to watch their team score more than 50 points for the third game in a row. 

    Rice simply does not have the athletes to keep up with the Aggies' explosive offense. The Rice offense struggled to move the ball against Notre Dame, and its offensive line will not be able to hold up against Myles Garrett and his teammates. 

    This is another game where the Aggie coaches will be able to get a look at a lot of the second- and third-string players in the second half. Expect for Kenny Hill to pass for around 300 yards and then give way to Kyle Allen and the second-team offense. 

    The Aggies will win this game 59-17.