2012 Rice Football Preview:
While not considered a traditional Conference USA powerhouse, the Rice University Owls have improved dramatically over recent years and have become a respected opponent on the Division I FBS level. Though the team finished with a 4-8 record overall and a 3-5 record in the conference, the Owls showed plenty of grit during the 2011 season with a signature win over Purdue University at home and played many of their Top 25-ranked opponents tough over the course of the season. This year, the Owls will return five starters on offense and defense and may experience growing pains with a particularly young roster.
On offense, the Owls will receive a huge boost at the most important position on the field, as Taylor McHargue will return to lead the offensive attack. At tailback, the Owls will return to their running back-by-committee approach with a combination of Tyler Smith and Sam McGuffie. The receiver spot is one of the deepest parts of the team with Vance McDonald and Randy Kitchens bringing size and speed to the position. On the offensive line, tackles Jake Hicks and Tyler Parish are the two bookends who will try to keep McHargue's jersey clean this season.
Defensively, the Owls are excited about the potential of cornerback Bryce Callahan, who picked off 6 passes during 2011. He will pair with Phillip Gaines on the other side and will be backed up by senior Travis Bradshaw at safety. The defensive line looks to be the most experienced portion of the roster, with seniors Scott Solomon, John Gioffre and Michael Smith providing consistent pressure on each play. Lastly, the undersized-but-explosive Justin Allen has become a leader for the Owls' defense at weakside linebacker.
On special teams, the Owls rely on Chris Boswell to handle the punting and kicking duties, and the young man may have a promising career in the NFL very soon. Looking ahead to 2012, the Rice University Owls open up the season with a big matchup against UCLA, which could give the team a great chance for an early upset. With the rise of Conference USA programs, like the University of Houston and the University of Southern Mississippi, the inter-conference schedule will certainly be daunting for the Owls. However, head coach David Bailiff has his team prepared for the strong schedule and will make sure that his team plays hard to the whistle and may just give their highly-ranked opponents a run for their money.
RICE OWLS INFORMATION:
Location: Houston, Texas
Stadium: Rice Stadium
Conference: Conference USA
Rivals: Houston Cougars
Mascot: Sammy the Owl
Notable Alumni: Tommy Kramer, Tobin Rote, Earl Cooper
Recent Bowl Games:
The Rice Owls football program began as part of the Southwest Conference (SWC) in 1919. Rice's early football history did exhibit success against the larger public institutions in the conference but the program was unable to keep up the pace with schools like the University of Texas, Texas A&M and others. Rice has recently seen a turnaround, however, going to the New Orleans Bowl in 2006, its first bowl game appearance since 1961.
The Rice Owls play their home games at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. The stadium holds 47,000 fans but can be expanded to hold up to 70,000. The stadium has been home to the University of Houston Cougars, the Houston Oilers, Super Bowl VIII, and has even witnessed a speech by John F. Kennedy in which he challenged the country to make a moon mission a reality. Kennedy even likened the challenge of going to the moon to Rice playing Texas in football! Buy Rice Owls football tickets and watch these underdogs slay the giants of their conference!
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Rice Owls Ticket Information:
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