Rice football hopes to soon contend for Conference USA titles. Although it might be a tough ask in 2018, the Owls chances are better than most might expect.
Rice football isn’t far removed from contending for championships. The Owls won the Conference USA West Division in 2013, triumphing over the Marshall Thundering Herd by a score of 41-24. The Owls ended that season with a lopsided loss to Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl, but by and large, the year was considered a tremendous success.
Not many are looking to the Owls to compete for a conference title in the first year of the Mike Bloomgren-era at Rice. Yet, the West Division is more wide open than it might seem.
North Texas won the West Division in 2017. The Mean Green will be in the mix to win it again in 2018, but there hasn’t been a back-to-back winner in the west since Tulsa won the division in 2007 and 2008, the only back-t0-back winner in the history of the West Division.
Per the latest Oddshark release, Louisiana Tech, not North Texas, is the favorite to win the West in 2018. Rice is a long shot (+10,000), but the West Division isn’t nearly as deep as the East. Outside of Lousiana Tech, there isn’t another team in the West with better than +1,000 odds to win the conference. In fact, only one of the top five favorites to win the conference comes out of the West. The top three, FAU, FIU and Marshall all play in the East.
That doesn’t make Rice’s road easy, but it proves oddsmakers believe the Owls have an easier path to the championship game than half the teams in CUSA. With only one clear favorite in the West, the Owls work is a little bit easier. They still have to win the games, but it Rice up more favorably than they could have hoped entering 2018.