Rice Football wraps up nonconference play in Week 4 with a home game against Baylor. How to watch, stats to know, x-factor picks for both teams and more.
It’s been a tale of two very different seasons for Rice and Baylor in 2019. The Owls are 0-3, recipient of losses to Army, Wake Forest and Texas. The most recent defeat at the hands of the Longhorns was painful, but Rice will do their best this week to glean some learnings from the defeat and move on.
The Bears were able to watch Rice play from the comfort of their own homes last weekend. The second Big 12 team to visit Rice in Houston this year, Baylor had the first off week in Week 3. They’d previously defeated SFA and UTSA, both by wide margins.
It’s another all-Texas tussle in H-town. Here’s what you need to know about both Baylor and Rice before their Week 4 battle.
Catch the full preview of the Baylor game on Episode 9 of The Roost Podcast. Find us on the podcast page or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. (And consider leaving us a 5-star review while you’re at it.)
Sizing up the contenders
Baylor enters their game against Rice a step ahead of the Owls in their own rebuilding process. Matt Rhule went 1-11 in his first year in command in Waco, improving to 7-6 a year ago with a bowl victory over Vanderbilt to end the season. Now in Year 3, the Bears look to have recovered from a challenged state on the football field. They’ve come a long way.
Rice is in Year 2, coming off a two-win season under Bloomgren in 2018, in some ways a step ahead of the Bears with Rhule. That progress will be tested on the field on Saturday in a game which should feature a heavy ground attack from both teams.
Like Rice, Baylor likes to pound the rock. They’ve averaged 38 carries in their first two games compared to 30 pass attempts. Eight different players have at least one rushing touchdown, including starting quarterback Charlie Brewer who isn’t exactly a mobile guy. There’s no doubt Rice will be more committed to the ground game than Baylor, a strategy which served them well in a near-upset of Army in Week 1.
All Time | Baylor leads 49-30
Last Five | Baylor leads 5-0
Last Meeting | Home 2016, Baylor won 38-10
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Stewart – 31/53 (58.5 percent), 364 yards passing, 3 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Walter – 42 carries, 170 yards (4.0 yards per carry), 1 TD
Receiving | Trammell – 16 receptions, 204 yards (12.8 yards per reception), 1 TD
Tackles | Alldredge – 21, Chamberlain – 20
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Alldredge – 2 PBU, Four others tied with 1
Baylor Stat Notables
Passing | Brewer – 33/47 (70.2), 362 yards passing, 6 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Bohanon – 13 carries, 177 yards (13.6 yards per carry), 1 TD
Receiving | Mims – 12 receptions, 147 yards (12.3 yards per reception), 3 TD
Tackles | Johnston – 11, Miller – 10
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Lynch – 1 INT/1 PBU, Five others tied with 1 PBU
Baylor X-Factor | Wide receiver play
The Rice secondary has taken significant strides from where they were a year ago. Texas got a receiver behind the back line and threw a deep ball for a run in touchdown, but the Owls defensive backs have kept most everyone else in front of them. Baylor will look to test that resiliency.
Denzel Mims (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and RJ Sneed (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) each pose a size and height mismatch with the Rice corners. Baylor wants to run the ball, but they’ll look to keep the defense honest with this pair of elite playmakers. If the Bears can win through the air, it’s going to be hard for the Owls’ front seven to stay home and do what they do best.
Charlie Brewer isn’t a better quarterback than Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman or Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, but he’s more than capable of getting the ball to his playmakers. How effective he is in that endeavor and how Rice does in those matchups could be a telling factor in how this game will go.
Rice X-Factor | First down
The most important down for the Rice offense is the first one. Winning third down and staying on the field is an area the Owls’ need to improve in as well, but the effectiveness of the offense as a whole is dependent on what the team does on first down. When Rice is able to move the ball, setting up second and mediums they put their run-first offense on schedule.
Eventual third and short situations give Rice a wide-open playbook, something especially significant if they’re starting a backup quarterback again this week. Rice didn’t win first down against Texas until late in the second half. By the time Rice started to gain momentum in that department, the score was out of hand.
The running game will set the tone, but it’s going to take a team effort from the offensive line and receiving corps to ensure Rice can set the tone early. Opening things up from the start will change the complexion of this game.
Wiley Green has been cleared and will start for Rice on Saturday but Tom Stewart is still expected to be in the mix at quarterback. A full injury update is available here.
The Roost’s 2019 Rice Football Season Preview has four pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth chart, important new arrivals and depth chart breakdowns for each foe. Better yet, it’s not just speculation, each profile was created with insight from local experts who cover those teams day in and day out. Pick up your copy today and get four pages and more than 1,000 words on Baylor.
Pick ‘Em Contest
If you haven’t yet, make sure you submit your entry for The Roost’s weekly pick’em challenge. Choose an answer to each of the six questions below and submit them on the forum thread to enter.
- Will the Rice defense register their first interception?
Yes / No
- Which team will throw more incomplete passes?
Rice (or tie) / Baylor
- Who kicks the longest punt for Rice?
Barnes / Nunez
- How many Rice players will have at least six tackles?
Over 5.5 / Under 5.5
- Will Rice score more points in the first half or the second half?
First Half (or even) / Second Half
- Who wins?
Rice / Baylor
One Final Thing
This is the last in an arduous string of nonconference games for Rice in 2019. Keeping the active players healthy and getting injured plays back to full health should be at the top of the Owls’ priority list. While the strength and conditioning staff and medical team are focused on those efforts, the team will prepare for their last chance at a nonconference statement.
Losing to Baylor won’t doom the season, but the Owls are cognizant of the opportunity at hand. In their home stadium with three weeks of their own film to assess and improve on, Rice should put a better product on the field than they did in Week 3. That’s going to be critical for team morale as they enter into conference play the weekend following.