Rice Football Predictions
It’s been a struggle for head coach David Bailiff at Rice the last three seasons. For a second straight season the Owls finished up with a 4-8 record. They are just 10-26 overall since their magical 10-3 run in 2008. As bad as things have been, the Owls nearly finished 3rd in the West last year. After back-to-back conference wins at home against UTEP and Tulane, Rice nearly went on the road and upset SMU in the season finale (24-27).
It’s unlikely that Bailiff will be able to avoid a fourth straight losing season in 2012. The Owls have just 10 starters (5 offense, 5 defense) coming back, after returning 16 each of the previous two seasons.To give you a better idea of the direction Rice is headed, Let’s take a look at what they will send to the field on both sides of the ball.
The Owls opened last year with sophomore Taylor McHargue at quarterback, but he was eventually replaced by senior Nick Fanuzzi. McHargue ended up throwing for 1,072 yards with 8 touchdowns to five interceptions. With Fanuzzi out of the picture, McHargue figures to once again be the starting quarterback for Rice. Other options include red-shirt freshman Driphus Jackson and true freshman Tyler Stehling.
The ground game has been a strength for the Owls the past two seasons. Last year they averaged 151.0 ypg behind Tyler Smith’s team-leading 860 yards (5 TDs). They also got 485 yards and five scores from backup Turner Peterson, who was used out of the backfield as both a running back and Rice’s version of the Wildcat. While they lose Smith, the Owls get back Charles Ross, who had to use a medical red-shirt last year (played in just 4 games).
Neither Smith or Peterson were expected to finish ahead of Sam McGuffie (former Michigan transfer) who had a team-high 883 rushing yards, 39 catches for 384 yards and a total of eight touchdowns in 2011. Injuries limited McGuffie all season, and he ended up finishing the year with just 230 total yards (158 rushing). This year the Owls plan on starting him at the slot receiver. It would give Rice a pretty solid receiving corps with the return of top wide out Vance McDonald (43 catches, 532 yards, 5 TDs) and starting tight end Luke Willson (29 catches, 313 yards, 3 TDs).
Up front on the offensive line, the only starter back from last year is sophomore right guard Drew Carroll, who started 10 games last year. It’s usually not a good thing when a sophomore has the most experience, but that is the case. The rest of the team has a total of just five starts between them. However, this unit wasn’t exactly a strength in 2011, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they put up similar numbers. Rice did add in talented junior college transfer Nate Richards, who is expected to start at center.
Rice isn’t known for fielding a very strong defense. Last year they allowed just over 33 points per game and had just as much trouble stopping the run (183 ypg) as they did shutting down the pass (279 ypg). With just five starters back on this side of the ball, the Owls figure to once again allow over 30.0 ppg and give up close to 500 yards of total offense.
One of the units that really loses a lot from last year is the defensive line. Not only do the Owls have to replaced 2nd Team All-C-USA defensive end Scott Solomon (taken 7th round of NFL draft), who had 8.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, but they also lose both starting defensive tackles. While they get back five of their top 8 from last year, not one of those players had more than one sack last year.
Things are looking a little better at linebacker, as Rice gets back their leading tackler in Cameron Nwosu (108 tackles). While they lose Justin Allen (97 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss), they are expecting a big season out of former LSU transfer Kyle Prater. Also returning to the mix is Trey Briggs (9 starts, 47 tackles in ’10), who red-shirted last season.
The Owls are one of the few teams who run a 4-2-5 scheme the majority of the time. They basically use what they call their KAT position as a third safety/linebacker. The Owls have had their troubles against the pass, but could actually improve this year despite losing two starters. They get back 2nd Team Freshman All-American corner Bryce Callahan, along with Paul Porras (KAT) and Corey Frazier (FS).
Conference USA Prediction – 5th West Division
The Owls simply don’t have enough talent coming back on either side of the ball to expect them to escape the bottom half of the West. Making it even harder on Rice is the fact that they have just three true home games (play Houston at Reliant Stadium). Two of those contests at home are against Southern Miss and SMU. That leaves a home game against Marshall and a road game at Tulane as the Owls only two realistic spots to get a win inside C-USA.
|More Team Previews|
|Central Florida Knights||Southern Miss Golden Eagles|
|East Carolina Pirates||UAB Blazers|
|Marshall Thundering Herd||Memphis Tigers|
|SMU Mustangs||Houston Cougars|
|Tulsa Golden Hurricane||Rice Owls|
|Tulane Green Wave||UTEP Miners|
|Big East||Big Ten|