The Rice football team has a rigorous schedule this fall, one more strenuous than any other team in Conference USA. Are the Owls up to the challenge?
It doesn’t take more than the eye test for an average fan to accurately assess the challenge looming in front of Rice football before it plays its first game of the 2019 season. The Owls schedule is daunting, highlighted by four potent non-conference opponents in the first four weeks of the regular season.
The full schedule and detailed previews of every team Rice will face this season is available in our 2019 Rice Football Preseason Preview. Those non-conference games, combined with a tough draw from Conference USA East featuring Marshall and Middle Tennessee, gives Rice an ignominious claim. The Owls own the hardest schedule in Conference USA — check out our CUSA Preview for more insight on each team.
ESPN’s Strength of Schedule metrics are reflective of that assumption:
- Rice – 74
- Middle Tennessee – 76
- Southern Miss – 92
- Old Dominion – 96
- UTSA – 101
- FAU – 104
- Western Kentucky – 106
- Charlotte – 110
- Marshall – 115
- Florida International – 120
- UTEP – 122
- North Texas – 125
- Louisiana Tech – 126
- UAB – 129
Three teams from the West Division have a top 100 strength of schedule and Rice is right at the top. But even those with similar strength of schedule marks are separated by a wide margin. Rice plays three Power 5 teams and Army. Southern Miss plays two (Alabama and Mississippi State) and UTSA plays one (Texas Tech).
After factoring in a game against Rice (2-11 last season), Middle Tennessee is the only other CUSA team in the same tier of difficulty. The Blue Raiders play Michigan, Duke and Iowa in non-conference play.
A hard road sets the Owls up with plenty of opportunities to make some noise, but it doesn’t guarantee the team anything. Rice has been tasked with continuing to make progress in Year 2 of a rebuild, regardless of opponent. Win or lose, Rice is going to be challenged every single week they take the field.
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