Rice football needs to focus on winning the easy game before they start thinking upset, but a signature win in 2018 is well within the realm of possibility.
At risk of stating the obvious, Mike Bloomgren has never been a college football head coach before. With the inexperience will come an inevitable learning curve, but it also sets the Owls up to play the role of spoiler. Unlike in years past, nobody truly knows what to expect from the Owls in 2018.
A meteoric rise overnight won’t be expected, then again, look at what Scott Frost did at UCF over the past two seasons. Great coaching (and a little bit of luck) can overcome a multitude of roster issues. As things stand right now, the talent gap is far too wide for the Owls to compete consistently with most major conference squads. However, a perfect game from the Owls combined with a bad outing from one of their tougher opponents could pave the way for a monumental upset.
Last year it was the Troy Trojans that went into Death Valley and downed the LSU Tigers. Although stunning, the upset wasn’t completely unforeseen. Neal Brown’s squad was coming off a 10-win season the year before and the Trojans were very much so a complete football team. Rice has too many question marks to be expected to exchange haymakers with LSU this go round, but the Owls could ruffle the feathers of their other non-conference foes.
Rice also plays Wake Forest and Houston in 2018. The Demon Deacons have to replace their long-time starting quarterback and have several questions on the other side of the ball. Their defense was subpar last season. They finished in the bottom half of the nation in scoring and were gutted by Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl to end the year. Dave Clawson is an adequate coach, but he’s not turning that unit into a shutdown group overnight. That gives Rice an opportunity, albeit a small one, to make their road trip to Winston Salem a little interesting.
Then there’s Houston. A win in the battle for the Bayou Bucket would be tremendous for the Owls, who have the added benefit of hosting the Cougars early on in the season. Rice opens the season a week before Houston and can use the Prairie View A&M game to work out some of their kinks. Houston, on the other hand, will be opening their season against Rice with not tune up games before their trip to South Main. If Rice can find any way at all to contain Houston pass rusher Ed Oliver they’ll have a fighting chance.
Rice needs to focus on becoming more competitive in their own division first before they start thinking upset. Nevertheless, the possibility of a marquee upset in coach Mike Bloomgren’s first season shouldn’t be ignored. Rice hired him to win games, and if he’s as good as the administration believes he is, that could start soon.
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