Rice senior cornerback Ryan Pollard isn’t shy about wanting to make a statement against the biggest football programs in the state.
Saturday, Pollard will get his chance to show the Texas Longhorns (0-1) what they missed when they chose not to recruit him out of Arlington Martin.
“Texas didn’t want any of us,” Pollard said about himself and his teammates. “We take a chip on the shoulder in that sense. We want to be the best team in Texas just like all of the others.”
Rice (1-0) will play No. 4 Baylor (1-0) on Sept. 26, another game Pollard has circled. The big matchups provided plenty of motivation for the Owls during the summer.
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“It’s definitely fun,” Pollard said. “There wasn’t a day this summer that we weren’t talking about that guy we know, who played at our high school, and is now at Texas. There’s always that rivalry in that sense. There is no intimidation when it comes to these Texas-on-Texas games.”
Pollard, who had one solo tackle in a blowout win against Wagner to open the season, spent hours studying film in the off-season. He has recorded every Rice game he’s played. Some of those game recordings are on Pollard’s DVR in Houston. Others are saved at his family’s home in Arlington, where he and his father Alvin break down film.
74 Years between Penn State losses to Temple. The Owls, who defeated the Nittany Lions 14-0 in 1941, won 27-10 on Saturday. Since 1941, Penn State had been 38-0-1 against Temple (the tie was 7-7 in 1950).
“Every time I go home, we watch at least two games together,” Pollard said. “For me, I watch the plays where the ball was coming my way or where my technique wasn’t as good, where I got away with having an overthrown ball, but I wasn’t in position.”
Much of Pollard’s film is positive. Last season, he led Rice in passes broken up (eight) passes defended (10) and was tied for the team lead with two interceptions, one that he returned for a touchdown against North Texas. But Pollard zeroes in on his missed plays the most, watching them as many as 20 times in a row, evaluating what went wrong.
“I’ve worked on all the little things, the footwork, the hand placement, pretty much fine tuned all of the details,” Pollard said. “Watching the plays over and over helps me visualize. I can get mental reps. When I get out on the field, I can have the correct thought process. I’ve seen it over and over in my head, so it becomes second nature.”
After Rice lost its first three games last year, Pollard worked his way into the starting lineup for the fourth game, a 41-23 victory against Southern Miss that started a six-game winning streak. Rice finished 8-5 and defeated Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.
Pollard said the Owls are ready to build on that success.
“Personally, I’m expecting a breakout season,” Pollard said. “For the team, I expect us to be in the Top 25, go to a bowl game, win the conference. I have high expectations for myself and this team.”
Games to watch
No. 19 Oklahoma (1-0) at No. 23 Tennessee (1-0) (5 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): This is another chance for each conference to make a statement. A road win against a ranked SEC opponent would be a big boost for the Sooners and Big 12. But it won’t come easy in front of a fired-up Volunteer crowd that has been waiting for a big win for a long time.
No. 7 Oregon (1-0) at No. 5 Michigan State (1-0) (7 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8): Last year, the Ducks early-season win against the Spartans played a big role in Oregon (with one loss) making the playoff. If the Ducks can pull off an upset road win, the result could be the same. But QB Connor Cook and his Michigan State teammates will be out for revenge.
I think the SEC should have 25 teams ranked in the Top 25.
LSU coach Les Miles
No. 14 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State (1-0) (8:15 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): We still don’t know what to expect from LSU since the Tigers’ opening game was cancelled. Can QB Brandon Harris give LSU a passing threat to divert some of the defense’s attention from sophomore RB Leonard Fournette? Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium – with auditory assault from constant cowbells – will be a tough place to find out.
500,000 Dollars that LSU will pay McNeese State, even though its season-opening game ended with a “no contest” after multiple weather delays. LSU has said it will refund tickets, and the total loss for the athletic department could add up to as much as $3.2 million.
Tweet of the week
Western Kentucky safety Branden Leston, after getting ejected from the Hilltoppers’ game against Vanderbilt for a targeting hit. Leston, who had to sit out the first half against Louisiana Tech Thursday night, sent the tweet while his team was still playing and on the way to an upset win.
Rising, falling, holding steady
Rising: Texas A&M’s defense. The Aggies, and new defensive coordinator John Chavis, wasted no time showing the country that there might be more than uptempo offense this season in College Station. The Aggies held Arizona State under 300 total yards and to 17 points – the first time A&M has given up less than 20 to a ranked opponent since beating Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl to close the 2012 season.
Falling: Halftime show freedom. Kansas State’s band director has been suspended for his school’s matchup against rival Kansas, and all of his band’s performances must go through an approval process, after the Wildcat band’s season opening show included a giant Jayhawk getting hit in the beak by the Starship Enterprise (which resembled a much more nefarious act).
Holding Steady: The Texas offense. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, scoring continues to be an issue. Texas has been outscored 117-20 in its last three games, including a 38-3 loss at Notre Dame to start this season.
Power 5 conference grades
ACC: C- Virginia Tech hung tough against Ohio State for the first half but couldn’t keep pace. Louisville blew its shot against No. 6 Auburn. No. 11 Florida State, No. 12 Clemson and No. 15 Georgia Tech all won easily against lowly competition, but no ACC team has a statement win yet.
Big Ten: B- While Ohio State lived up to its No. 1 ranking with a dominant win on the road, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Wisconsin and Purdue all lost to Power 5 opponents. The lone bright spot? Northwestern upset a ranked Stanford team.
Big 12: C TCU and Baylor, the class of the Big 12, both looked shaky at times in opening wins. Texas wasn’t competitive against Notre Dame, and Kansas lost to South Dakota State. The conference needs some momentum, and it could come with an Oklahoma win this week at Tennessee.
Pac-12: B- What happened to the Pac-12? Two ranked teams – Arizona State and Stanford – went down to unranked opponents. Colorado lost at Hawaii, Washington couldn’t pull off an upset at Boise State and Portland State took down Washington State. But No. 7 Oregon, No. 8 USC, No. 13 UCLA and No. 22 Arizona all won, and Utah beat Michigan and hopped into the AP poll at No. 24.
SEC: A Can you hear the chant ramping back up? S-E-C. S-E-C. S-E-C. Get ready to keep hearing it, if the conference keeps rolling like it did in the opening week. The SEC was 12-1 (the lone anchor coming from Vanderbilt losing to Western Kentucky), which led to a record number of ranked teams, including all seven members of the SEC West.
RB Derrick Henry, junior, Alabama: Last week, 13 carries for 147 yards and three touchdowns in 35-17 win against Wisconsin.
QB Trevone Boykin, senior, TCU: Last week, 26-for-42 passing for 246 yards with a touchdown and an interception; 18 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown in a 23-17 win at Minnesota.
RB Nick Chubb, sophomore, Georgia: Last week, 16 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns in 51-14 win against ULM.