Rice football (1-0) hosts the Houston Cougars in Week 1. The two Houston rivals will battle for the Bayou Bucket and bragging rights for the next year.
The Bayou Bucket is the biggest rivalry game in the city of Houston. Although the Cougars have dominated the series, Mike Bloomgren and his staff at Rice have plans to take back their city one game at a time. Get an in-depth look at both sides of the football and the Cougars’ 2018 schedule here. Bloomgren and some key players talked about the significant of this rivalry and more during the Owls press conference on Tuesday.
1. Rice has a two-game winning streak against Houston at Rice Stadium
Rice and Houston first met on the football field in 1971. Houston won that game 23-21 and has controlled the series ever since. The Owls have never won more than two consecutive games whereas the Cougars currently posses a four-game winning streak and have won as many as six in a row.
But, Rice does have one streak going for them. The Owls have won each of the last two games of the series that were played at Rice Stadium (2008, 2010), outscoring the Cougars 90-73 in those two contests. Houston opened as 21-point favorites in the betting markets climbing to 25 points during game week.
2. Ed Oliver isn’t going to win the Heisman (probably)
To this day Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson is the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. His victory came in 1975. A lot has changed in college football since then, including the emergence of spread offenses and an increase in scoring. The Heisman is now, for better or worse, a quarterback award. Ed Oliver, All-World defensive tackle for Houston, might do enough to earn an invite to New York for the presentation ceremony, but he’s not taking home the hardware.
Still, he’s going to be pretty darn good. Oliver leads all FBS players in career tackles for loss per game with 1.56. He tallied five sacks as a freshman in 2016 and 5.5 sacks last season. Offenses know he’s going to be coming for the quarterback up the middle, but they haven’t been able to prevent him from racking up 38.5 tackles for a loss in 24 games.
Oliver is going to make some highlight reel ready, show-stopping plays on Saturday. Rice needs to make sure he doesn’t sway the outcome of the game by himself.
3. Cougars plan to air it out
Rice struggled through the air against Prairie View last weekend. Tristen Wallace went off, catching five balls for 147 yards and a touchdown before halftime. But the Owls held him to zero receptions in the second half. Prairie View had -4 yards in the fourth quarter and that played a large role in Rice’s ability to claw back and ultimately reclaim the lead on a last-second field goal.
Which group of defensive backs show up on Saturday against Houston? Offensive coordinator Kendall Briles comes to Houston by way of FAU. A product of his father Art Briles’ coaching tree, Kendall has already made his mark on the college football world as a coordinator that likes to open up the offense and air it out.
FAU averaged 8.3 yard per attempt last season, tied for 22nd most in the nation. In his previous stop at Baylor the Bears ranked 49th, and fourth in the same metric in 2016 and 2015 respectively. The Rice corners struggled against the deep ball against Prairie View. Houston has several talented pass catchers on the edge. If adjustments aren’t made things could get dicey.
More: I sat down with the Scott & Holman podcast and talked more about the Owls’ 2018 season and how they stack up with the Cougars.
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