The Rice Owls have seen plenty of good seasons under the coaching of David Bailiff’s decade-long tenure. Unfortunately, the Owls have seen their win total drop in successive seasons. After going 3-9 in 2016, the university thought that it was time for some changes. The defensive side of the football is where they looked to improve.
David Bailiff brought in a new coordinator who will replace the head coach’s 4-2-5 scheme. Now, the sky is the limit, because the Rice Owls can only go up from here. Last year, the squad ranked near the bottom of the FBS in every major category.
The offense is also far from a sure thing. What helps is that all of the returning starters are in the trenches. To their dismay, Rice was devastated by injuries last season. Hopefully, better health should help produce better results on the scoreboard. However, a road-heavy opening to the schedule, including Stanford doesn’t look promising. This could easily be another frustrating season for coach Bailiff and the Owls.
The quarterback is up for grabs in 2017. It’s anybody’s guess, Jackson Tyner, J.T. Granato and Sam Glaesmann battling in the spring for the job. Tyner saw the most playing time in 2016. He started in five games and threw for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns in a conference win over UTEP. He also started the final game at Stanford but failed to do anything worth mentioning.
Running back Sam Stewart is back after an injury-plagued year. Last season, he managed 479 yards despite making only four starts due to a knee injury. When healthy, Stewart has the ability to be an every-down back.
The dual-threat back also catches passes out of the backfield He recorded 107 yards and three scores. Emmanuel Esukpa is a 230-pound bruiser in the mold of Charles Ross from a few years ago. Obviously, the Rice will be looking to use their one-two punch to wear teams down.
For quarterback support, 6’4″ and 205 pound redshirt freshman receiver Aaron Cephus steps up to the plate. He gives the Owls’ a big-play target. Also, Kylen Granson shed his redshirt halfway through the year and finished second on the team with 33 catches for 381 yards. Both are back for the Rice Owls.
One year after being plagued by injuries, Rice returns all five starters on the offensive line. The crew is led by center Trey Martin and left guard Peter Godber. Martin missed sufficient time with a foot injury and underwent offseason shoulder surgery. Even so, he will is cleared in time for fall camp.
Brian Stewart was hired as defensive coordinator. His job is to revamp the Owls defense that was miserable to watch in 2016. In fact, Rice the worst in the FBS in several major categories. The Owls allowed 30 or more points in nine games while allowing more than 500 yards per game. Ouch.
The Owls lost just two seniors on defense and return seven starters. The unit is led by All-Conference USA first-team linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee. Ellerbee was a tackling machine, recording 118 stops a year ago.
Rice’s defensive front should be their strength. Blain Padgett returns and is capable of being an all-conference performer. Combine this with Brian Womac and Graysen Schantz at the other end position and the Owls should show some improvement.
At safety, J.T. Ibe provided a physical, big hitter that was active in 90 percent of the Owls packages. Playing free safety, KAT Destri White was one of the team’s top players at the end of last season.
Furthermore, cornerback Justin Bickham is set to return after missing all of the last year with an ACL injury. One area that needs improvement is in the turnover department. The Owls’ 11 forced turnovers were among the fewest in the nation.
This is a make or break campaign for coach Bailiff.He has two years left on his contract, entering into his 11th season. The pressure is on to turn around a program that has gone 5-7 and 3-9 the past two seasons. Let’s not forget, Rice set a school-record three straight bowls before that.
Obviously, avoiding injuries will be huge for a team that once again will lack depth at most of their crucial positions. Nevertheless, the heat is on in 2017. The opening month is a grind for the Rice Owls.
For starters, they play four of the first five games on the road, including the opener against Stanford in Sydney, Australia. Houston and the Pitt Panthers aren’t pushovers either. The Owls must keep some contests close and win their winnable games if they hope to have a good season.
Las Vegas has the Owl’s team total at 3.5. I believe if the Owls can stay healthy this would be a good play. Unfortunately, you will be paying for it at -135. Also, insiders have the Owls as a 40 to 1 (+4000). Again, why would you even think of something that outrageous?
Aug. 26: Stanford (Sydney, Australia)
Sept. 2: OPEN DATE
Sept. 9: at UTEP
Sept. 16: at Houston
Sept. 23: FIU
Sept. 30: at Pittsburgh
Oct. 7: Army
Oct. 14: OPEN DATE
Oct. 21: at UTSA
Oct. 28: Louisiana Tech
Nov. 4: at UAB
Nov. 11: Southern Miss
Nov. 18: at Old Dominion
Nov. 25: North Texas
The getmoresports.com NCAA College Football Throwdown Podcast will be returning to the air on August 24th. We will be highlighting the first five games on August 26th of the 2017 NCAA College Football season. That will be the first of three installments leading into the first week of the season. We also we will be covering our expectations for the Heisman Trophy front-runners as well as predictions for conference winners and team totals.
Our second NCAA College Football Throwdown is penciled in for August 29th. In that installment, we will be discussing all the games that will be played on August 31st and the 1st of September.
Our third segment will officially be airing on August 31st. In this edition of the NCAA College Football Throwdown, we will be covering all the relevant games for Sept 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
Keeping with tradition, EJ the Rainmaker and Erik the Hun will give their predictions for the contests. On top of that, we will be providing our dog play of the podcast as well as cash money plays for the week. Join us for all three opening episodes and improve your college football knowledge while increasing the size of your sports book betting account. Come join us and help everyone make it rain. #moneytreesgrow
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