Things have been pretty quiet on the player departure front for both Texas State and Rice heading into the First Responder Bowl.
Texas State will be without safety Ronnie Hamrick and running back Calvin Hill as they entered the transfer portal.
Receivers Drew Donley and Joey Hobert are both questionable for Texas State. Hobert, who missed two games, still leads the Bobcats with 71 catches and 847 receiving yards and he is tied for the team lead with eight TD catches. Donley has 11 catches for 169 yards.
Hill is sixth on the Bobcats with 31 rushing attempts.
Quarterback JT Daniels won’t play in the game as his career ended due to a concussion. AJ Padgett was 37 for 58 passing for 395 yards with four touchdown passes and three interceptions in wins over Charlotte and Florida Atlantic as the Owls became bowl-eligible.
Tight end Jack Bradley (8 catches for 94 yards) is doubtful.
The line opened with Texas State favored by 6.5 points. It moved to 4.5 and is now at 5.5. The Moneyline moved from -230 to -220 for Texas State and +188 to +180 for Rice.
The total moved from 60.5 to 59.5 since the matchup was announced.
The total went over in Rice’s 2022 bowl game. Each of the last five times that Rice played a team from the Sun Belt Conference, the total finished over.
Texas State has lost its last four games against American Athletic Conference teams.
Five of the first six First Responder Bowls were decided by more than 10 points. Four of the previous five First Responder Bowls were decided by seven points per game before last year’s 38-10 win by Memphis over Utah State.
Now, check out the rest of the First Responder Bowl preview, originally published on December 18.
Rice Heads Into the First Responder Bowl Without Starting QB JT Daniels
Texas State and Rice won’t have far to travel for the First Responder Bowl as this is the only game featuring both teams hailing from the same state where the game is being played. Regarding the First Responder Bowl predictions, Texas State is listed as the favorite.
Even though the Rice and Texas State campuses are just 2.5 hours apart, this will be the first meeting between the teams.
According to the NCAA football bowl odds, Texas State opened as the 6.5-point favorite, with the line moving to 4.5 with a Moneyline of -185.
Texas State began the season with a win over Baylor out of the Big 12 and became bowl-eligible with a win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 4. Rice needed to beat Florida Atlantic to become bowl-eligible in its first season in the American Athletic Conference.
When the season began, Rice (+6000) was ahead of only Charlotte in the odds of winning the American Athletic Conference. The Owls finished tied for fifth in the AAC standings. In the Sun Belt projections, Texas State (+8000) was tied for 11th but finished tied for sixth.
A quick look at the NCAAF rankings shows that Texas State is 10th in total offense among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, with Rice coming in at No. 73.
First Responder Bowl
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX
Stream: ESPN / ESPN+
Balanced Offense Drives Texas State
Texas State did a little of everything to lead the Sun Belt Conference in points per game. The Bobcats join LSU, North Carolina, Texas, and North Texas as Football Bowl Subdivision teams to rank in the top 25 in points per game, yards per game, rushing yards, and passing yards. That could factor into the First Responder Bowl predictions.
Ismail Mahdi has rushed for 1209 yards, the most for a Texas State player since playing at the FBS level in 2012. Former LSU and Auburn quarterback T.J. Finley has thrown for 3287 yards and 24 touchdowns in his first season with the Bobcats.
Texas State has covered in just two of its last seven games.
Departures & Injuries
When analyzing the NCAAF injury report, receivers Drew Donley (11 catches) and Joey Hobert (71 catches, 847 yards) are questionable for Texas State while running back Calvin Hill is out. Running back Josh Berry and quarterback CJ Rogers entered the transfer portal.
For Rice, quarterback J.T. Daniels is out.
Padgett Looks To Get Passing Grades
The injury to the well-traveled Daniels leaves some big shoes to fill. Daniels, who has played at Southern California, Georgia and West Virginia before landing at Rice Owls, has missed the last three games. The good news is that Rice has won two of those contests.
Daniels passed for 2443 yards and 21 touchdowns in nine games, with Daniels surpassing 400 passing yards in two of those games.
Freshman AJ Padgett has completed more than 60% of his passes in each of the last three games. Turnovers have been an issue, with three interceptions thrown in the previous two games. Padgett also ran for a couple of scores in a win over Charlotte. Keep that in mind when it comes to the First Responder Bowl predictions.
Rice is 8-3-1 against the spread in the last 12 games and 5-1 ATS in the previous six matchups as the underdog.
Who Will Strike First?
This game will feature two top-scoring teams in the first quarter of games.
Texas State ranks fourth among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in points scored in the first quarter of games, with 11.2 points per game in the opening quarter. Rice ranks ninth at 10.1 PPG in the first quarter.
Rice had the lead at the end of the first quarter in five of its first seven games, with Texas State up heading into the second quarter in four of the Bobcats’ first six contests.
Receiver Chris Dawn, safety Kaleb Culp, and linebacker John Emmanuel are from Dallas for Texas State, as are Rice tight end Jack Bradley and the Owls’ top tackler Plae Wyatt, so there are plenty of homecoming angles to this matchup.
Texas State has won eight of the last 10 games as a favorite.
The total has gone under in four of the last six games for Rice. The total is set at 60.5 for this game. There has been very little movement in the total for this matchup. During the regular season, both Rice and Texas State had six games finish over the total.