Johnny Manziel has had himself a rather tumultuous offseason, but here we are, finally, ready to discuss the Heisman-winning quarterback within the context of a football game. After a brief delay, anyway -- Manziel has been suspended for the first half of the opener against Rice. Texas A&M is coming off an impressive SEC debut thanks in no small part to Manziel, and the Aggies are taking aim at a league title in year two.
Rice is coming off its first winning season since 2008, and it returns a slew of starters from last year's 7-6 squad, but the Owls don't figure to put up a lot of resistance against A&M. This game may end up being one they prefer to forget, but on the bright side, the outcome doesn't affect their long-term goals.
Rankings and records: The Aggies head into the season with high expectations and a top-10 ranking in the AP and Coaches polls. They are 50-27-3 all-time against Rice, and they've won the last 15 games in the series, though the two teams have not met since the mid-1990s.
Vegas: Texas A&M opened as a 28-point favorite, but that line is down a hair to 27. The over/under was initially set at 65. No one is expecting the Aggies to run into much trouble with the Owls.
Weather: It's gonna be a hot one in College Station -- the high is expected to hit around 99 degrees, and there's no chance of rain.
Three names to know
Johnny Manziel -- Before his long offseason, Manziel was busy establishing himself as one of the most exciting players in college football; he threw for 3,706 yards last season and ran for more than 1,400 yards. We only get him for half of a game this time around, but pretty much everybody is going to be watching to see how his sophomore campaign starts.
Taylor McHargue -- Rice has a dual-threat quarterback of its own in McHargue, who threw for 2,209 yards and ran for 667 more last season. If the Owls want to entertain any notion of an upset, he is going to have to be near perfect. Rice might just be content to get out of the game with his health intact, though. Rice actually brought in veteran MLB player Lance Berkman during the offseason to teach him how to slide properly, because he's taken unnecessary hits in the past, and it's cost him playing time.
Mike Evans -- Evans was Manziel's favorite target last year, and he finished the season third in the SEC with 1,105 receiving yards. Considering the turnover within Texas A&M's receiving corps, Evans figures to be a prominent part of the passing game once again, and he's still just a sophomore.
Two things at stake
Texas A&M needs this game and the following week's contest against Sam Houston State to get as sharp as it can before hosting Alabama on Sept. 14. The Aggies could theoretically still win the SEC despite losing to the Crimson Tide, but the odds of that are not good. A win against Alabama puts them on track for a potential BCS title run, and this early-season warmup is here to serve that goal.
Rice would love a respectable showing to help build some confidence as it readies for Conference USA play later in the month, but in the big picture, the outcome Saturday probably won't mean a lot for the Owls' season. Saturday's game might provide some hint as to whether or not Rice is a legitimate contender for a C-USA title.
How to witness
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese and Tom Luginbill)
Online streaming: ESPN3