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Texas State vs. Rice: Picks, best bets for First Responder Bowl in Dallas on Tuesday

The Bobcats and Owls meet in a Lone Star showdown.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Rice at UTSA Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Texas State Bobcats take on the Rice Owls in the First Responder Bowl on Tuesday, December 26. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET from Gerald J Ford Stadium on SMU’s campus.

Texas State (7-5, 4-4 SBC) had their biggest game of the year in Week 1, when they shocked Baylor in Waco with a 42-31 win over the Bears. They were just fine the rest of the season, but peaked early on, eventually falling to Louisiana, Troy, and Arkansas State, among others. The Bobcats were led by Auburn transfer TJ Finley at quarterback, who finished the year with 24 passing touchdowns and eight interceptions. Running bak Ismail Mahdi had 10 rushing touchdowns and over 1,200 rushing yards in the regular season.

Rice (6-6, 4-4 AAC) won their last two games of the season to reach bowl eligibility. With former Georgia QB JT Daniels under center, the Owls defeated FAU, Houston, and Tulsa, among others. Daniels added up over 2,400 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and seven interceptions before he medically retired with a head injury partway through the year. Backup AJ Padgett took over for the final few games of the season.

Here’s everything you need to know and a pick for the bowl.

SP+ Rankings

Texas State: 79 overall, 47 offense, 114 defense
Rice: 95 overall, 64 offense, 107 defense

List of injuries and players opting out of game

Texas State

WR Joey Hobert - Questionable (undisclosed)
WR Drew Donley - Questionable (undisclosed)
WR Beau Corrales - not listed on depth chart
TE Sean Shaw - not listed on depth chart
RB Calvin Hill - Out (transfer portal, 98 yards rushing)
QB CJ Rogers – entered the transfer portal.

Rice

QB JT Daniels - Out (head)
TE Jack Bradley - Questionable, listed as starter (undisclosed)
QB AJ Padgett - Likely to start

ATS/Total

Against The Spread in 2023

Texas State: 6-6 ATS
Rice: 8-3-1 ATS

Total in 2023

Texas State: Over 6-6
Rice: Over 6-6

Team Pace

Texas State: 23.0 seconds per play
Rice: 28.3 seconds per play

Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Texas State -3.5
Total: 60
Moneyline: Texas State -166, Rice +140

Weather

56 degrees, Sunny, 11 MPH wind, 0% chance of rain

Our Best Bet for the First Responder Bowl

Rice +3.5

Texas State had one of the higher-scoring offenses in the nation this season, ranking 26th in points per game, but struggled with inconsistency issues throughout the year. Rice may be missing JT Daniels, but they went 2-1 with backup Malik Hornsby, and if they can slow the pace of the game to something that they are comfortable with, I like the Owls to cover. Rice ranks 67th in the nation in opponents’ yards allowed per game.