Texas-Rice Football Preview 2010

I don't know a ton about the Owls, but I'll try my best.

Here are a few interesting facts:

- Educated owls say WHOOOOOM!

- A group of owls is known as a parliament. Owls are individual hunters. So very few vote Labour.

- The European Eagle Owl can have a wingspan of up to two meters and can weigh up to ten pounds. They subsist on a diet of Kraftwerk, condescension, baguettes, and unfiltered cigarettes. Fear this animal, Nkwopara!

- Owl wings are muffled, making them perfectly silent before they strike in unexpected, devastating fashion.

Like an elevator fart.

The Owls have a football team. Also like an elevator fart.

Now - quickly! - let's watch these Japanese game show hosts encouraging owl stare downs...

Overall

Rice was 10-3 in 2008 with a talented group of exciting skill players (Clement, Casey, Dillard) but wins left with their graduation. The Owls were 2-10 in 2009, a schizophrenia one would expect from an academically oriented mid-major program. It's all about rebuilding cycles at those places - terrible to bad to average to good - then start the cycle again.

They return 18 starters and David Bailiff (15-21 at Rice) is a solid coach. He came to Rice from Texas State, trading out T&A for GPA.

It's typical Rice - a roster full of thuggish JUCOs and misfits. Maybe that's Kansas State. Whatever.

Same school, basically.

Offense

The Owls were 60% pass/40% run last year and I'd expect that to hold given the talent they have at RB, uncertainty at QB, and the experience they have on the OL.

Rice hasn't settled on a QB yet. The choice? Two transfers: Alabama's Nick Fanuzzi and Miami's Taylor Cook. Cook was running #2 on the Miami depth chart behind Jacory Harris before he transferred and he's 6-7 245 with a big arm.

I talked to all six Rice fans and four of them think the winner will be Fanuzzi, the incumbent. Last year: 270-162-1598-11-8. Decent TD/INT ratio, but averaging less than 10 yards per completion doesn't blow up any skirts. Not that you'd want to see that with a Rice co-ed.

The Owl WRs aren't worth mention.

RB has good talent and features Leaping Supa Wigga Sam McGuffie. He transferred from Michigan after Rich Rodriguez wouldn't let him wear his helmet sideways. He's extremely fast, likes to leap over people who aren't paying attention, and he may die on the field if he tries to do that to Christian Scott. Charles Ross will split time and he ran for 491 yards and 11 TDs last year. They use him in a WildHootOwl package with a direct snap. I'd expect some option from Ross with Captain Leap-A-Wig to give us a different look.

The OL is very experienced. All five starters return and OT Scott Mitchell is All-Conf USA. So that's a fun little test for our DL.

Their offense should be much improved from 2009 when they averaged < 19ppg.

Defense

The Owls gave up 43 points per game last year against a weak slate. They also lost their best player - DE Scott Solomon - for the next 6 weeks. Their best returning defender is DE Cheta Ozougwu (4.5 sacks last year), a powerful guy who may actually give Hix/Mitchell some good work. That's about it. On the brighter side of things, when offenses run up and down the field, they will wear down eventually from sheer oxygen debt.

Special Teams

Admit it, you don't care. Given the athletic deficit here, I expect us to score on special teams and/or defense in this game.

Summary

Rice is in a rebuilding cycle but should double last year's win total. They don't present any threat to us and they're a useful coming out party for Gilbert, the new running game, and for our defense to begin their reign of terror.

For those of you with a gambling bent, I hope you jumped on the line when it was in the high 20s. The notion that Texas is coming out running the Veer and will begin kneeling to melt clock in the 3rd quarter is bizarre. We have to get Gilbert ready and that means throwing the ball around. Additionally, when your defense keeps the other teams' scoring at the number 0, 3, or 7, it's pretty easy to cover the line. Or perhaps you foresee Rice dropping 24 on us?

Finally, these are the scores of our last four Rice contests. Please tell me if you can discern a trend.

2005 51-10
2006 52-7
2007 58-14
2008 52-10

The average margin of victory is 43 points. No victory less than 41.

All Texas scores in the 50s, all Rice outputs between 7-14.

I think we're going to be OK.

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