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Rice Owls

College Football

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Since reaching eight wins and a bowl game in 2014, Rice has taken a dive with five and three wins in the following two seasons. Without much returning to either side of the ball, the Owls will likely find themselves without a bowl yet again. The offensive line could be good, but the tools around it are lacking.

The main hole in the offense is at quarterback, which was also an issue last year with Tyler Stehling tossing just 12 TDs to seven picks. The new quarterback probably won’t be decided until the fall with Jackson Tyner having an early leg up, although a few others are still in the race. Freshman Miklo Smalls could also make a run, but either way, the running game will lead the offense. As the line returns four starters, Samuel Stewart (479 yards) and Austin Walter (343 yards) should see plenty of work after both ran for 5.0 yards per carry last year. That will at least be a building block for an offense without a quarterback. Parker Smith (144 yards) is the top returning receiver with 6-foot-4 Aaron Cephus also expected to have a bigger role.

Rice was terrible defensively in every category in 2016 so head coach David Bailiff decided to bring in new coordinator Brian Stewart, who has spent time with Nebraska, Maryland and Houston, while also serving in the NFL before that. As the Owls will be moving to a new 3-4 scheme under Stewart, there isn’t much to say about this group that had numerous injuries a year ago. Linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee will continue to be a playmaker after 118 tackles last year, but everyone else around him is a question. The only way to go is up for this unit, so that’s one thing to take away for a new defense.

The bigger problem could be the schedule with a difficult non-conference slate that starts with Stanford being played in Australia. That could lead to four early losses with a trip to UTEP important in getting the Owls an early C-USA win. Otherwise, Rice could be looking at another long season with La. Tech and USM coming to town while they also have to travel to UTSA and ODU. To get to four wins, Rice will need to win a road game or two meaning UTEP or at UAB in November. From there, the hope is that four or five wins is on the table (over/under 3.5).

The Owls have +3400 odds (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the conference and no one will be taking that number. They could steal some wins due to a solid ground game, but getting to five wins or a bowl game seem like a long shot for this team unless the defense can really turn things around.


2017 Rice Owls Football Schedule

Aug. 26 vs. Stanford (Sydney, Australia)
Sept. 9 at UTEP
Sept. 16 at Houston
Sept. 23 vs. Florida International

Sept. 30 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 7 vs. Army

Oct. 21 at UTSA
Oct. 28 vs. Louisiana Tech

Nov. 4 at UAB
Nov. 11 vs. Southern Miss
Nov. 18 at Old Dominion
Nov. 25 vs. North Texas

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