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August 29, 2013

Owls C-USA good, but not ready for A&M

Record in 2012: 7-6 (4-4 C-USA); beat Air Force 33-14 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl
Coach: David Bailiff, 30-44 (22-26 C-USA) in six seasons at Rice
2012 offense by the numbers: 225.6 yards passing per game (67th NCAA); 201.8 rushing yards per game (29th); 31.8 PPG (41st); 33 sacks allowed (94th)
2012 defense by the numbers: 190.7 rushing yards allowed per game (87th); 235.23 YPG passing (63rd); +5 in turnover +/- (39th); 27 sacks (50th); 30 ppg allowed (77th); 426 total YPG allowed (81st)

Possible starters, Offense (Spread, 4-WR offense):

QB: Taylor McHargue (194-325, 2,209 yds., 12 TD, 5 INT passing; 164 carries for 667 yards and 11 TDs rushing)
RB: Charles Ross (147 carries for 800 yards and 5 TDs)
WR: Jordan Taylor (57 catches for 826 yards and 3 TDs); Donte Moore (26 catches for 326 yards and 4 TDs); Andre Gautreaux (3 catches for 27 yards); Connor Cella (redshirt freshman)
OL: John Hoddle (6'7", 300), LT; Nico Carlson (6'3", 275), LG; Nate Richards (6'4", 300), C; Drew Carroll (6'4", 290), RG; Caleb Williams (6'3", 275), RT

PK: Chris Boswell (23-29 FGs, 45-48 XP)
Possible starters, Defense (4-2-5 alignment):

LE: Tanner Leland, (6'2", 240; 6 tackles)
NT: Stuart Mouchantaf (6'4", 290; 12 tackles, .5 TFL)
DT: Christian Covington (6'3", 290; 43 tackles, 8 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumbles)
RE: Cody Bauer (6'4", 255; 51 tackles, 12 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries)
SLB: Michael Kutzler (6', 205; 16 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries)
WLB: James Radcliffe (6'2", 220; 42 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery)
SS: Gabe Baker (6'1", 210; 40 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble)
FS: Julius White (5'10", 195; 79 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 INT, 3 forced fumbles)
KAT: Paul Porras (6'1", 200; 93 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery)
CB: Darrion Pollard (5'9", 185; redshirted); Bryce Callahan (33 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 INT, 7 pass breakups)

P: Cameron Decell (Redshirt freshman)

Strengths: Veteran team with 18 junior or senior starters; deep running back corps; solid secondary.

Weaknesses: No explosive players; lacking team speed; undersized on both the offensive and defensive line. Team's three best defensive players from 2012 are not playing either due to injury, suspension or having left school early.

Overview: Even though the Owls frequently run four receiver sets out of the shotgun, they're a more effective team running the football than throwing it. McHargue isn't a bad quarterback, but he's more of a game manager than an outstanding passer. His job is to keep the chains moving and not turn the ball over. With the loss of Sam McGuffie, Ross and Taylor are the primary weapons on offense.

On defense, Rice has a lot of quality players that will do well against Conference USA, but will likely be outsized and outmatched against A&M. If Julius Nwosu and C-USA preseason defensive player of the year CB Phillip Gaines were playing, the Owls would be in better shape; Baker and White are good safeties. Even without Johnny Manziel playing the first half, they're going to be hard-pressed to keep up with A&M's speed, pace and size at receiver.

From A&M's perspective: This may be the best Rice team in decades and could challenge for the C-USA title, but they're not a match for a top 10, SEC West power. A&M needs to operate their offense with their normal pace and efficiency, and wear down a thinner Owls team with their speed and the heat. While A&M can rotate running backs and receivers, Rice will be hard-pressed to take their starters off the field. Then, after halftime, a fresh and angry Johnny Manziel will be able to create havoc.

On defense, the gameplan will be simple: slow down Ross and the running backs, then let nothing get behind you. If A&M sticks to Mark Snyder's game plan and gets the Owls into 2nd and 3rd and long situations, the Aggies will be able to tee off on McHargue. A&M's speed and ability to blitz from all directions will make life difficult on Rice's quarterback if the game is in his hands.

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