Tag Archives: Rice Owls

The Preseason Slate of Games Made Only for True College Football Fans

College football season doesn’t truly begin until that first full Saturday of games.  This year, that’s September 1.  Some of us refuse to wait that long, though.  The good news for us is that we don’t have to wait.  It doesn’t matter that it’s Wyoming battling New Mexico State.  College football is college football (at least when it’s still August and we’re starved for it.)

So, I’m here with some reasons to dig into the seemingly unappealing and unimportant, appetite-whetting menu of taste-tester games taking place a week ahead of that most glorious of Saturdays.  While there’s not much to get overly excited about on August 25, when you’re this hungry, you’ll make do with just about anything.  At some point, you’re sure to be asking yourself, “What the hell am I watching right now?”  Well, here’s what: Continue reading The Preseason Slate of Games Made Only for True College Football Fans

College Football’s Opening Weekend Owes Us More

I love college football just as much as the next guy.  Saturdays aren’t for the boys so much as they are for the boys to gather around a big screen, drinking as many 96-calorie Miller Lite’s as they’d like.  We’ve yet to find anything that comes anywhere near college football’s ability to help us justify that weekly decision.

We owe a lot to college football Saturdays.  When I pick through the Week 1 schedule we have lined up for Labor Day weekend, though, it feels like college football owes us a little more.

Stanford is beginning its season with a game in Sydney, Australia.  That’s cool.  The fact that the Rice Owls are the opposition is not cool.  There’s a Florida rivalry game right off the bat.  Unfortunately, it’s between Florida International and Central Florida.  University Alabama-Birmingham makes its glorious return to football after a two-year hiatus, against Alabama A&M.  How have we possibly contained our excitement all summer?

In all seriousness, there are some things worth looking forward to.  P.J. Fleck, Lane Kiffin, and Tom Herman take the field with their new teams for the first time.  Ohio State opens on the road, on a Thursday night, against a conference opponent for the first time in… probably ever.  Florida State and Alabama collide in a top-five matchup in Atlanta.  Michigan and Florida head for Jerry World and a top-15ish meeting.  West Virginia and Virginia Tech will likely both be ranked for their opening contest in Landover, Maryland.

If you’re not a fan of those programs, you’ll probably be forced to watch your team playing in a glorified scrimmage.  Whether your team is the one laying the beat down or getting its ass kicked makes no difference, really.  Nobody wins if the boys had to finish the Miller Lite by halftime just to make it interesting.

At what point do we stop flooding to football just because it’s back?  At what point do we demand more as consumers, as opposed to blindly accepting whatever we’re given?  My guess is that will never happen.  Until it does, we’ll continue to receive a mediocre slate of games on opening weekend, with the only ones truly worth watching happening hundreds of miles off campus, in NFL stadiums.

This is big business we’re talking about and there’s a ton of money involved in these neutral-site games.  I understand that.  Still, it pisses me off.  These are essentially bowl games.  Actually, these games are more important because the whole season is still ahead.  If money grabbing is what we’re doing now, and it most certainly is, then why not take it to the extreme?

What Can We Do?

Let’s schedule bowl game rematches for the first week of the season.  Think for just a second about the storylines.  Would Clemson be able to pull off another upset of Alabama eight months after their instant classic?  Could USC and Penn State replicate the craziness of last year’s Rose Bowl Game?  Is Lamar Jackson really that containable, or did LSU’s defense just do everything right that day?

Wouldn’t it be fun if the two semifinal losers got a crack at each other to start the new season?  Imagine the hype that would surround a Washington-Ohio State clash in a couple weeks.  Automatically, one of the top contenders to reach the playoff would have an impressive feather tucked into its cap.  The four-letter network could have a field day with that buildup.

If your team was not invited to participate in a bowl game the previous year, it can do whatever it would like.  Honestly, nobody outside of the school gives a damn about your five-win team.  I’m only concerned with the primetime programs here.  And in tying them all up in these bowl game rematches, I am, in turn, saving a lot of you from an opening week embarrassment anyway.  It’s a win-win, even for the losers.  You should be thanking me for ignoring your meaningless team.

Is this grand idea ever going to materialize?  No, it won’t.  Like so many things in the world of college football, it makes too much sense to become a reality.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to dream, especially when the boys still have two weeks to save up their beer money.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him @GreatGatzke.

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New Year’s Six Preview: Cotton Bowl

Forewarning: While I have zero affiliation with either team in this year’s Cotton Bowl Classic, I would be lying if I said I was unbiased. I grew up in Ohio in an Ohio State family. While I no longer root for the Buckeyes, some of my emotions and opinions about Michigan certain Big Ten football teams remain. While we always despised the “Team Up North” we also, to a degree, respected them. We did not, however, in any way shape or form, respect the Wisconsin Badgers and, especially their fan base. Also, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to see P.J. Fleck and the Western Michigan Broncos row the boat over any and every Power 5 opponent. That being said, I’m going to keep this as diplomatic and unbiased as I possibly can manage.

Whilst I was holding out for an in-state matchup between the two best Michigan teams (sorry MSU) in this year’s Cotton Bowl, I was pleased with the Wisconsin Badgers vs. Western Michigan Broncos draw. If I’m going to be honest, I believe that this game could actually be close. Granted, WMU needs to play at its top possible level, but I believe that the Broncos have a legitimate shot at beating Wisconsin. Zach Terrell has made very few mistakes this season, throwing only 3 interceptions. However, he did that with very little pressure, only being sacked 14 times over the 13-game season. Wisconsin, which probably has a top-10 defense, will definitely look to disrupt and hit Terrell early and often to force mistakes. The key for Terrell will be to suck it up, take the hits, and not change his progression whatsoever. If he does so, the Broncos should be able to dent the Badger defense.

Many people, myself included, will focus on the matchup between the Broncos offense and the Badgers defense. However, the other side of the football offers an interesting storyline. Coming into the Cotton Bowl, the Badgers have the 86th ranked offense, directly behind the Rice Owls. There is a chance that the Badgers could seriously struggle offensively, which could turn the game into either a Western Michigan blowout or a defensive struggle.

In the end, I see this game being a defensive struggle. While both offenses may put up a good chunk of points, the winner of the Cotton Bowl will be determined by which defense steps up in the fourth quarter. I think this game will stay tight, but the Wisconsin pressure will be too much late, and the Broncos will be unable (unfortunately) to score the winning touchdown at the end of the game.

 

Final Score: Wisconsin Badgers 31, Western Michigan Broncos 28

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Photo: Pixabay

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Conference USA’s Best Football Games of 2016

Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference were pretty similar in that they both had one team which basically did whatever it wanted. In C-USA that team was Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers rolled through the conference undefeated, averaging 50 points per game in conference play.

However, Western Kentucky has just 11 starters returning, and the starting quarterback is not one of them. In general, the conference sees many of its top teams from last year returning very few starters, while the teams that finished at the bottom bring back quite a few. It should make for an exciting year for Conference USA and could open the door for a dark-horse candidate to break through. These ten games will help decide if we see two new teams in the conference championship game in 2016.

10. Charlotte at Louisville (Thursday, September 1)

Last year was Charlotte’s first season in the FBS, and just its third season fielding a football team. They struggled, as expected, going 2-10 but actually beat a Georgia State team in the opener that would go on to make a bowl game. I don’t think Charlotte will be able to knock off Louisville, but with 17 starters back can they hang around for a while? The final score of this game will show if the 49ers can possibly make a bowl game this year, or if the team is still years away.

9. North Texas vs. Southern Methodist University (Saturday, September 3)

This is an intriguing non-conference game between Group of Five schools. Both schools will have coaches with little experience. Chad Morris is in his second year at SMU and North Texas will be in its first year under first-time coach Seth Littrell. Littrell and Morris will have some familiarity with each other, as both were offensive coordinators at ACC schools. With two offensive minds at the helm, it could provide an entertaining game to start the year.

8. Southern Mississippi at Kentucky (Saturday, September 3)

Southern Miss went 7-1 in conference last year but lost all three games it played against Power 5 teams. Though Kentucky isn’t a world-beater, defeating the Wildcats, an SEC team, in the season opener would certainly help with recruiting (ESPNU at 7:30 pm est).

7. Old Dominion at Charlotte (Saturday, October 1)

Old Dominion and Charlotte combined to go 3-13 in conference play last year. So why is their matchup on this list? For starters, both teams return 17 starters in a conference where most of the good teams return a lot fewer. Additionally, these teams have been part of the Football Bowl Sub-division for two years or less. This game will show which team is closer to becoming a respectably competitive program.

6. Rice at Western Kentucky (Thursday, September 1)

We will see right off the bat what this Western Kentucky team looks like after losing so many key players from last year’s dominant team. They’ll get Rice at home on the season’s opening night in a conference clash that will tell us if Rice is ready to step up and challenge for their own division.

5. Florida International vs. Indiana (Thursday, September 1)

FIU will get back-to-back chances to start the year for a nice non-conference win. Indiana did make a bowl game last year but I don’t think anyone would be shocked if they laid an egg against a Group of Five school.

4. Florida International vs. Maryland (Saturday, September 10)

There aren’t a lot of winnable games for Conference USA against Power 5 competition, but this would be one of them. Maryland was abysmal last year and the Florida International Panthers get the Terps at home in the September heat.

3. North Texas at Rice (Saturday, September 24)

Louisiana Tech was the only school besides Southern Miss to finish above .500 in the West division. With LA Tech returning just nine starters, the spot is wide open as main challenger to the Golden Eagles. North Texas and Rice are two of those teams vying for that spot and this early season match-up will determine who has the early leg up.

2. Florida Atlantic at Florida International (Saturday, October 1)

Both teams will look to get over the .500 hump after going 3-5 in conference play a year ago. Florida Atlantic won eight of the first nine games between these two rivals, but the series has been pretty even since. Both teams return 14 starters so we should see a pretty heated battle.

1. Rice at Southern Mississippi (Saturday, October 1)

Southern Mississippi was in the conference championship game last year and Rice will be looking to take over its spot, with 16 starters returning this year. They’ll be extra motivated to get Southern Miss back for the 65-10 drubbing it put on the Owls last year.

E-mail Jason at or follow him on Twitter @JLindy87

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Damien Bowman: Five Teams with the Most to Prove in 2015

Seth picked this topic, and it’s a good one. There are so many teams that have so much work to do based on how good or bad they were in 2014 that picking five is the toughest part. I’m actually doing this one on time, and I can’t cheat, so I’ll go off the path a bit.

Choose one team from each of the Power 5 conferences that you think has the most to prove in the 2015 CFB season.

ACC: The easiest target is Virginia Tech – not Florida State, they’ll be fine – but because I don’t think the Hokies make any significant improvement until Frank Beamer is gone, I’ll use these limited keystrokes on another team: Clemson. I would never call their schedule ‘easy,’ but I will say in 2015 the expectations for success of Swinney and company should be much higher than they’ve been in the past. The Tigers are known to do well early in the season, only to commit what I call ‘Pac-12 Suicide.’ Basically losing to a team they have no business losing to in an otherwise normal playing situation. College football is about as unpredictable as it gets, but assuming they survive Louisville and Notre Dame then their next big challenge is Florida State at home on November 7 and the season finale at South Carolina on November 28.

Clemson has depth issues at linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, and cornerback. So, basically everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, but on the positive side the offensive line looks as solid as it can be after losing so much in the draft. Tigers look good at wide receiver and might have help coming from the receivers. Make no mistake, Dabo Swinney’s entire 2015 campaign will be based solely on the defensive side of the ball though.

Big 12: Texas. Are there other teams in the Big 12? I mean there are, but Texas is the big dog…that went 6-7 last year under first year coach Charlie Strong. Strong has a lot to prove this year and given their schedule, their record after this season may resemble the 2014 campaign. Texas’ non-conference opponents are Notre Dame, Rice and Cal. Four years ago, I probably would have bet two months’ pay the Longhorns would win all three, now I’d guess they’ll beat Rice and maybe split Notre Dame and Cal. Honestly it depends on which Longhorns team shows up.

And wasn’t that the biggest problem for the 2014? We never knew which team was going to show up? Losses to Baylor and TCU cannot happen in 2015. Texas is supposed to be the biggest and best team in its state and many can argue if they repeat last year, they might be the third or fourth behind Baylor, Houston, TCU and Texas A&M.

Alright, Houston and Texas a&M might be a bit of stretch, but the point is the same. The schedule makers were not kind to Texas forcing them to play Notre Dame, TCU, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor on the road. Somehow Charlie Strong must find a way to work through the adversity and compete for the conference championship.

Big Ten: There are actually too many choices in this conference. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but that’s where we are. I believe though Minnesota has the most to prove. It’s time to find out if Jerry Kill’s success over the past few seasons can be maintained or the Golden Gophers have just been average in a bad division. Not forgetting how good the team was in 2013, we have to remember the team fell back to Earth in 2014. Now is the time we find out how good of a recruiter Jerry Kill and staff are, and find out how those kids stack up against the rest of the Top 25 with home games versus TCU and Michigan and what’s hopefully a night game at Ohio State on November 14.

What helps the Gophers to most is that the rest of the Big Ten West is mostly in shambles. Wisconsin hired Paul Chryst to replace Gary Andersen who left for Oregon State, but there’s no way to know how good or bad the Badgers will be. Nebraska hired Oregon State’s Mike Riley to replace Bo Pelini. This cycle is vicious. If there were a chance for Minnesota to win the division, 2015 would be it. Jerry Kill and company must seize this opportunity to show how far the program has come along.
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Pac-12: Southern Cal? Probably. This year they’re finally off Reggie Bush (I hear Pete Carroll was there too) sanctions and will return this season with their full allotment of scholarships. USC has had many coaches since Pete Carroll left, but many believe based on the 2014 campaign (9-4) they should be right in the mix to compete for the Pac-12 South. In case you forgot who else was in the South: Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State who all had 10 wins and all also finished inside the Top 25 in 2014.

What sets USC apart from the other three? At this point nothing does. It’s all on them to go out and earn back the respect they lost over the past four seasons. Steve Sarkisian has to find a way to put the drama of USC in the rearview mirror and face the tough challenge that is the Pac-12 South. As respected as Pat Haden is, there cannot be a repeat of him coming down from the press box to talk officials during the game. There also cannot be a repeat of student-athletes like Josh Shaw lying about injuries. Those incidents are the types that can destroy seasons for young teams like Southern Cal.
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SEC: Ole Miss. Easy. The men in Oxford have to prove that last season wasn’t an aberration. They also need to remind everyone which program is still the biggest and best in the state of Mississippi. Dan Mullins has done a hell of a job recruiting at Mississippi State, but really Hugh Freeze has all the resources in the world. All the marketing. All the swagger. Sure the Rebels stumbled at the end of the season, but being at or near the top is tough. Now is when we’ll find out if any of the three potential Rebel quarterbacks (Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan or Davante Kincade) are worthy of the starting job to replace Bo Wallace.

Ole Miss is “lucky” enough to get Alabama in Week 3 (September 19) and doesn’t face Auburn until November 7. Even though Ole Miss opens with two cupcakes, we’ll know by halftime of the Alabama game if this team has anything in its gas tank for 2015.

There you have it, five teams from five power conferences that have the most to prove? Which five teams do you think have the most to prove in 2015? Mitch, Warren, and Ryan give you five teams they think have the most to improve in 2015. Check them out.

Leave a comment below or e-mail Damien at [email protected].

Southern Miss looks to Boil Rice in C-USA opener

(USM)- Southern Miss will be looking to Boil some Rice Owls this Saturday at 6pm in the C-USA opener for USM. The Eagles are coming off a win last Saturday over Appalachian State by a narrow win 21-20. Eagles Special Teams came up big with a blocked extra point kick that would have tied the game and sent it to Overtime. With 03 seconds left on the clock, Southern Miss’s Dasman McCullum came around and blocked the extra point. Rice is coming off a 45-42 loss to Old Dominion.
Rice and USM have played four times in C-USA with Rice holding a 3-1edge. Rice beat Southern Miss 44-17 in 2012 in Houston. USM is hoping that the home field advantage will continue since the Eagles are undefeated this season so far at 2-0. SoMiss is depending a lot on Sophmore QB Nick Mullens as the young QB passed for over 200 yards for his 9th time in 10 starts at the Helm against App State. The running game for USM is still plaguing the offense by just getting 61 yards on the ground Last week.
True Freshmen Ito Smith and Tez Parks have seen most of the carries.
On Defense, The Nasty Bunch forced a turnover for the fifth straight game dating back to the UAB game. Thus far this year, the Golden Eagles have forced 10 turnovers with 5 fumbles and 5 interceptions. Since opening league play, USM is 13-5 and 7-3 at home. Eagles lost to FIU last year 24-23 as a Corey Acosta field goal was blocked. Several USM players had solid play against App State but one in particular is Junior Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Nunez-Roches had 10 tackles against App State with a sack and three tackles for loss. Jacorius Cotton also had a big game with seven tackles, five were solo tackles.
Rice is a very balanced team both running the ball and passing with 1374 total yards in three games. SoMiss has 1290 total yards of Offense in four games but depend strongly on the Pass with almost 900 yards through the air. The less than 300 yards in four games is a disappointment with the fact the Eagles have worked in the off season. Head Coach Todd Monken has been stressing the face that USM would be a good running team. To the Eagles credit, the offensive line has faced two of the more dominating defenses in the nation by playing Mississippi State and Alabama. State shut-out USM 49-0 but the Eagles did manage to move the ball on Alabama in a 52-12 defeat.
Southern Miss is a 10 point underdog at Home against the Owls and rightfully so since USM has barely won both home games. Southern Miss will have to get out to good start on Offense and score more than 21 points to win. Mullens will be looking to his Senior Receiver Marques Triplett and Junior Transfer from Houston Kacey Martin. The Defense cannot keep bending in the second quarter as 49 points have been scored. But for that to happen, The offense has to stay on the field. The Achilles heal so far in all four games is the fact that USM goes three and out putting the defense back quickly on the field.
Look for Rice to try and pound it up the middle on the front line and then use their quickness in the wide receivers to score. Sophmore RB for Rice Darik Dillard had three TDs in the loss against ODU. Rice is banged up coming to Hattiesburg but that will not hinder Rice getting up for one of the Leagues hardest places to play at “The Rock”. The game will be televised on Fox Sports and this will be USM’s third game on National TV.
I think USM will get their third win of the year by beating Rice 34-24.

Notre Dame: Rice Recap and The M Word

#15 Notre Dame set to take on rival Michigan on Saturday
#15 Notre Dame set to take on rival Michigan on Saturday

I trust everyone had a great “Christmas” morning last Saturday. I know I did. Rest assured, I went to bed Saturday night with a big smile on my face. Winning does that. It’s just hard not to smile when your team wins, especially looking good while doing it. Personally, I had lots of questions regarding the Fighting Irish going into this season and it was nice to get answers to some of those questions. The 48-17 victory over Rice Saturday afternoon was a good first step in the right direction for the Irish, however Notre Dame gets their first real test of the year when an old rival comes to South Bend Saturday night.
Rice: The South Bend Treat
Before we mention the “M” word, let’s reflect on a few items of note from the Rice game. If anyone told me Everett Golson hadn’t played a game in over a year and a half, I wouldn’t have believed them. I understand Rice is not a Top 25 team but I found Golson’s performance to be quite spectacular nonetheless. It was obvious Golson improved greatly during the last year or so. Golson seemed to have a better feel for the game than he did in 2012. What became painfully obvious to me during the first half was I kept saying to myself “this is what Notre Dame missed all of last year.” Not only does Golson have that ability to make a play with his legs but he also seemed to understand how to manage the game. I recall there were no delay of game penalties called on Golson the whole game. What a relief! Not to disparage Tommy Rees, but goodness gracious how many times a game did that happen last year?
In fact, I have to rack my brain to think of any penalties committed by the Irish against Rice (I know there were a few). It seems like Notre Dame played cleaner football in the sense they really didn’t try beat themselves. I think a lot of times in years past, when Notre Dame lost it came primarily due to them beating themselves with stupid penalties or costly mistakes at the wrong time. I get that happens to a lot of teams but one point that seriously irks me is that seems to happen to Notre Dame way too much. I’ve seen Notre Dame beat themselves more than any other team. I hope that this year is the last of that.
Another point that made me smile was punt returns are back! My goodness, it’s been so long since there was any excitement when a Notre Dame player caught a punt. At one point, I thought Cody Riggs was going to house of the returns. If you read this blog enough (hopefully you do) you will know Notre Dame’s lack of punt returns has been a serious gripe of mine over the past few years. It was so good to see some excitement back in special teams. Greg Bryant did a great job as well and I almost expect someone to break a return for a touchdown against Michigan tomorrow night.
All in all, it was a great way for Notre Dame to start the season. Golson looked great and his on field leadership impressed me. The offense looks to be running on all cylinders. Only item of concern would be the secondary. I didn’t know Austin Collinsworth got hurt in practice Thursday night but man o man you could tell he didn’t play in the game because his leadership was sorely missed on defense. Elijah Schumate stepped in without any reps with the first team and got beat on Rice’s only real touchdown of the game. There was a lot of miscommunication in the secondary in Collinsworth absence and I hope with some reps this week, everyone will be on the same page.
The “M” Word
Well, it’s that time of year again. Michigan comes to town for the last time in perhaps quite awhile. Due to Notre Dame being a “non-official” member of the ACC in football, Notre Dame will play five ACC teams per year, which means a few traditional teams the Irish play have got to go. Personally, I like the rivalry and hope to see it renewed in a few years.
Confession time: I don’t like Michigan. Never have and never will. I respect their tradition and what the team has accomplished, don’t get me wrong, but I just do not like them whatsoever. I think their uniforms are ugly and I fight their fight song to be incredibly annoying. The Michigan-Notre Dame game is always a good football game to watch.
In all honesty, I don’t have much to say about Michigan primarily because I just don’t like them. I fully expect Notre Dame to win this game and that it will be a close one. If Everett Golson plays like he did against Rice then I have to think Notre Dame will win this game. This game comes down to one key match up: the Notre Dame secondary vs. Devin Gardner and the Michigan wide receivers. For me, it always comes down to this matchup. This is the reason why Notre Dame lost this game last year. It seems like in college football your success is directly related to how well your quarterback plays. Another barometer for how this game will go will be which quarterback has the most success against the opposing defense. Like I mentioned above, If Golson has the kind of day he had last week it’s going to be hard for Michigan to keep up.
Final Thoughts
The game against Rice is exactly what Notre Dame needed to start the year. Golson played his heart out and showed everyone what he is capable of. I fully expect the Michigan game to be close and hard fought, it always is. However Notre Dame has the edge at quarterback and in college football the quarterback is the difference maker and that’s exactly what Golson is: a difference maker.