In more than 100 years of collegiate football, the Rice football team owns eight conference championships in two different conferences.
1934 Southwestern Conference Champions
The first nine-win season in Rice football history, the 1934 team came six points shy of an undefeated season. The Owls took down SWC foes SMU, Texas, Arkansas and Texas A&M that year, but lost to TCU 7-2 and tied LSU 9-9. They were one of four teams (the others being Stanford, Tulane and Alabama) to finish with nine or more wins. Meaning they would have been a top-five squad had the AP Poll existed.
1937 Southwestern Conference Champions
After starting out winless in their first three games (one draw and two losses, all in non-conference play), Rice kicked it into gear. The Owls won six of their final eight games, capping off the season with a 28-14 victory over No. 16 Colorado in the Cotton Bowl. Rice finished the season ranked No. 18 in the nation.
1946 Southwestern Conference Champions
Rice rolled through the SWC in 1946, ending the year 5-1 in conference play. The lone loss came to Arkansas by seven points and the team registered a landmark victory over No. 3 Texas at home. The season ended with an 8-0 shutout victory over No. 8 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl and the Owls’ first official top-10 finish in school history.
1949 Southwestern Conference Champions
Chronicled in more detail here, the 1949 squad remains the most successful team in Rice football history. Outside of another loss to LSU, the fifth straight defeat for the Owls against the Tigers, Rice played nearly flawless football. During a three-game stretch against Texas Tech, Arkansas and Texas A&M the Owls scored 55 points and surrendered zero. The season ended with a win over No. 19 North Carolina in the Cotton Bowl and the highest AP ranking in school history, No. 5
1953 Southwestern Conference Champions
The third Cotton Bowl win in less than two decades came following the 1953 season. The Owls were a top 15 team at the beginning of the season and kept pace at that level throughout the year. They started the season by knocking off a ranked Florida team before ending it with a victory over Alabama in Dallas.
1957 Southwestern Conference Champions
The last of Jess Neely’s four conference championships came in 1957. That was the year the Owls finally got over the hunt and beat LSU on their way to posting three victories over Top 20 teams including No. 17 Stanford, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 1 Texas A&M. A loss to No. 5 Navy in the Cotton Bowl spoiled what was otherwise a historic season.
1994 Southwestern Conference Champions
In March of 1994 Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech announced their merger with the Big 8 to form the Big 12, effective in 1996. In its dying days, the SWC produced a bizarre finish that year. Texas A&M (10-0-1) that season, but under NCAA penalties. That gave way to a five-way tie for the conference crown between Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech and Rice, all who finished 4-3 in SWC play. That’s how Rice, with a 5-6 overall record, won their final SWC Crown.
2013 Conference USA Champions
The only non-SWC title in the archives came under David Bailiff in 2013. Rice was near-perfect in conference play, dropping a road contest to North Texas, but otherwise going 7-0 in their remaining CUSA games. The team suffered three non-conference losses, including a Liberty Bowl loss to Mississippi State and added wins over the Big 12’s Kansas and independent New Mexico State.
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