Although UTSA and Rice never have met on the football field, there will be no shortage of storylines when the Roadrunners and Owls clash Saturday in Houston.
For starters, Rice is coached by MacArthur High School graduate David Bailiff, who was head coach at Texas State for three seasons before taking over the Owls' program in 2007.
Then there's former Rice All-American quarterback Tommy Kramer, a Lee graduate who will be honored by his alma mater and the National Football Foundation at Saturday's game. Kramer will be inducted into the NFF College Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 4.
Another interesting storyline is that the matchup will pit longtime friends and former high school teammates against each other.
UTSA junior cornerback Erik Brown played with Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines at Judson and with safety Paul Porras at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"I keep in touch with them after every game," Brown said. "It's going to be cool playing against them."
UTSA (5-0) and Rice (1-5) square off at Rice Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Rice's lone victory this season against Kansas
The Roadrunners beat New Mexico State 35-14 in their Western Athletic Conference opener Sept. 29 and had an open date last weekend. The Owls, who have dropped four in a row after beating Kansas on the road, are coming off a 14-10 loss to Memphis on Saturday.
Although Rice is struggling, UTSA coach Larry Coker said the upstart Roadrunners are bracing for a challenge against a program celebrating its centennial season. UTSA's history, on the other hand, consists of 15 games.
"We have our hands full," Coker said Monday at his weekly session with the media. "I was watching their defense earlier today. They are a lot better than I wanted to see. I thought they played well enough on defense to beat Memphis. They did not play as well on offense as they should have.
"Their quarterback is hurt or coming off an injury, and I just really think their offense is a lot better than what's on that tape. We know what we are in for and if we don't, we are in trouble. It's going to be a real challenge to protect our passer and block their defense."
After opening its season with a 49-24 home loss to UCLA, Rice squeezed out a 25-24 victory against Kansas in Lawrence the next week. The euphoria of the big road win dissipated after the Owls fell to WAC team Louisiana Tech 56-37 on Sept. 15.
Rice is 0-3 in C-USA play, losing to Marshall (54-51, double overtime) and Houston (35-14) before Saturday's defeat in Memphis.
Teams UTSA has beaten this season are a combined 3-25
"I've said it before," UTSA sophomore center Nate Leonard said. "We have to prepare each week like this is the Super Bowl. I do believe, in the history of this program, Rice is the best team that we've ever played. I've watched film on them. They're physical up front on the defensive line, and they can do very good things in the secondary."
Even with five losses going in, Rice very well could better than any opponent the Roadrunners have ever faced in their brief history. UTSA has built its 5-0 record this season against teams that are a combined 3-25. None of its opponents has won more than one game and two are 0-6.
"People are skeptical and they should be," Leonard said. "We're a second-year program. They don't want to believe it. But everyone inside this program believes it, because of the work we've put into it. I know that people aren't giving us much credit. We have to earn respect.
"We're the new kids on the block. No one is going to give us the respect we feel we deserve, so that's why we've got to go take it. That's what we're trying to do week in and week out."
Quarterback Eric Soza said the Roadrunners have no illusions about the challenge they'll face against Rice.
"They're a lot better than people think they are," he said. "They've played very quality opponents. One thing I see from film is the past two weeks, against Houston and Memphis, their defense has improved tremendously. They held Memphis to 14 points. It's going to be a four-quarter dogfight."
Extra Points: Soza, Leonard, safety Steven Kurfehs, defensive tackle Ferrington Macon, tight end Jeremiah Moeller and linebacker Brandon Reeves have been elected team captains for the season by their teammates. "There were a lot of guys who could have been named captain," Soza said. "I could easily name 15, 20, just because of everyone that works hard and that's a quality honor. For me to be named captain, it's an honor in itself." . . . Defensive tackle Ashaad Mabry played at MacArthur with Rice safety Gabe Baker and running back Darik Dillard. He and Dillard were teammates in 2010 when the Brahmas advanced to the Class 5A Division II state quarterfinals. . . . There are three other players from the San Antonio area besides Gaines, Baker and Dillard on the Rice roster, linebacker Nick Elder (Central Catholic), kicker/punter James Farrimond (Churchill) and wide receiver Dennis Parks (Judson).