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Schedule and Odds
Rice has a lot of expectations coming into the season considering how they finished the 2012 campaign. They won their last five games including a comfortable bowl win over Air Force. However, it may be a little too early to get carried away as the Owls did lose games to Houston and Memphis last year before that win streak. Nevertheless, with every coach returning along with a ridiculous 20 starters, another bowl game and possible C-USA title shot has fans excited.
The only positions the Owls are losing players at on the offensive side are at wide receiver and tight end. WR Sam McGuffie and TE Vance McDonald totaled 90 receptions and seven TDs, but the good news is that top wideout Jordan Taylor returns. He busted out for 153 yards and three TDs in the bowl game. Taylor McHargue had a good handle of the spread offense last year and expects to build on that. Although it will be interesting to see if backup Driphus Jackson gets any playing time as he excelled in limited action last year, including in the bowl game. The offense should be able to continue to score enough to finish near the top of the West division.
Rice's defense wasn't outstanding last year, but with everyone back excluding one player, they should be able to improve. Cornerback Phillip Gaines is the top talent and he's just one of six seniors set to start on this side of the ball. It will be important that the Owls don't have the ugly games this year. Allowing 47 points to Tulane stands out even though they won that game.
2013 Rice Football Schedule
Aug. 31 at Texas A&M
Sept. 14 vs. Kansas
Sept. 21 vs. Houston (Reliant Stadium)
Sept. 28 vs. Florida Atlantic
Oct. 5 at Tulsa
Oct. 12 at UTSA
Oct. 19 at New Mexico State
Oct. 26 vs. UTEP
Oct. 31 at North Texas
Nov. 16 vs. Louisiana Tech
Nov. 21 at UAB
Nov. 30 vs. Tulane
Things don't start off great for Rice with a road game at Texas A&M, but their next two non-conference games could be confidence builders. Kansas is still a work in progress, while Rice will be looking for revenge against Houston, after the Cougars handled them in last year's matchup.
The problem with Rice's schedule comes in October when they have three straight road games. One of them includes Tulsa who they get on the road for the second straight season. Fortunately, the next two come against UTSA and New Mexico State, two teams in tough situations. The rest of their schedule isn't all that bad as fellow West contenders UTEP and Louisana Tech both have to travel.
Rice has all the pieces to make a run at the C-USA title, but that road task at Tulsa could decide their fate early in the year. If the defense can improve, that game is definitely winnable behind this offense. Expecting eight wins or more isn't that lofty of an expectation for this group.
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