HOUSTON - The next team up is one with very high expectations in 2013, the Rice Owls. Rice is coming off a 7-6 and season which ended with five traight wins. 4 of which helped them get bowl eligible, the fifth was a victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
The Owls are picked to finish 2nd in their division and head coach David Bailiff has a ton of starters returning, tons of senior leaders will also help try and make this a memorable one over on South Main.
The Owls return 9 starters on the offensive side of the ball. They led the nation last year in time of possession and could be pretty explosive again. It all starts with the quarterback position and Rice has two pretty good ones. Taylor McHargue has taken big strides in his years under center, 12 touchdowns and 5 picks last season.
Many believe he will have a breakout season; at least, he s looking that way in practice. In case something happens to Taylor like it did last season, then Driphus Jackson is ready to take over.
He had a great bowl game, and continues to learn the offense. Jordan Taylor looks to expand on his 3 touchdown bowl game performance.
At running back Charles Ross will carry the ball a lot and so will Jeremy Eddington, both of which will run behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.
On defense, Rice brings back 10 starters, including CUSA pre-season Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Phillip Gaines. However, they must improve on their 190 yards allowed on the ground if they want to have any success.
Cy Woods CB product Bryce Callahan is back, so are leading tacklers Paul Porras and Cameron Nwosu. It is a very experienced group that if it cut downs on allowing big plays, should give their offense plenty of opportunities to put the Owls and ahead.
The Owls schedule lines up like this, they open on the road against Texas A&M and a half of Johnny Manziel, they return to Rice Stadium for three including a showdown with city rival Houston at Reliant Stadium on September 21.
Their first conference test is at Tulsa, but the Owls could be 3-1 by that point, a good foundation for possibly a 7 or 8 win season if all the pieces fall in place.