Four questions facing Texas against Rice:
1. WHO WILL START AT QUARTERBACK?
When Charlie Strong removed Shawn Watson as Texas’ primary play-caller, Tyrone Swoopes lost the influence of his biggest supporter on the staff. You get the sense that Strong has grown weary of Swoopes and is ready to see what Jerrod Heard can do. Heard made his debut last week at Notre Dame, where he attempted only one pass in two series of work. Expect both quarterbacks to get snaps.
2. HOW MANY CARRIES WILL JOHNATHAN GRAY GET?
It had better be more than eight or Jay Norvell won’t be calling plays much longer. Strong was clearly dismayed at the lack of opportunities Gray received at Notre Dame — only eight carries, for 40 yards. Expect Saturday’s game plan to be heavy on inside runs to wear away at the smaller Owls.
3. WILL MARCUS JOHNSON PLAY?
On Monday, Strong called Johnson’s status “day-by-day” with an ankle injury that sidelined him for last Saturday’s second half. Johnson was not among the three Longhorns to catch a pass in South Bend, but he’s poised for a big senior season after a productive training camp.
4. WILL THE STANDS BE FULL?
Earlier this week, there were still 15,000 tickets that remained unsold, though season sales are roughly the same as they were last year. Anger has set in after three straight embarrassing losses, which is never good for turnstile figures. If anger turns to apathy, morale could get even worse. The fan base won’t take kindly to a fourth straight game of feeble offensive output, so booing is certainly a possibility.