#78 Rice Football 2013 Preview

Rice Owls

Overall Rank: #78
#4 Conference USA

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Few teams ended 2012 as hot as Rice. The Owls were sitting at 2-6 and the prospects for a bowl game looked extremely grim. But Coach David Bailiff rallied his team and they beat Southern Miss, Tulane, SMU and UTEP to end the regular season 6-6 and earn a trip to the Armed Forces Bowl. In the bowl, Rice ran with their momentum and defeated Air Force 33-14 thanks to a strong second half.

2012 Record: (7-6, 4-4)
2012 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Air Force (W 33-14)
Coach: David Bailiff (30-44 at Rice, 51-59 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Reagan
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Thurmond

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Charles Ross, RB, 800 yards
Passing: Taylor McHargue, QB, 2,209 yards
Receiving: Jordan Taylor, WR, 826 yards
Tackles: Paul Porras, S, 93
Sacks: Cody Bauer, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Bryce Callahan, CB, 2; Cameron Nwosu, LB, 2; Paul Porras, S, 2; Julius White, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: K Chris Boswell, G Drew Carroll, G Nico Carlson, DT Christian Covington, RB Jeremy Eddington, CB Phillip Gaines, S Malcolm Hill, OT Jon Hodde, WR Donte Moore, LB James Radcliffe, C Nate Richards, DT Hosam Shahin, OT Caleb Williams

Key Losses: P Taylor Cook, TE Vance McDonald, WR Sam McGuffie, DE Jared Williams, TE Luke Willson

One of the main reasons Rice finished so strongly was the play of quarterback Taylor McHargue. He only passed for 2,209 yards and a dozen touchdowns, but McHargue is a great team leader who keeps the chains moving. McHargue completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw just five interceptions. While he may not put up giant numbers through the air, McHargue will make a huge impact on the ground. Last season he rushed for 667 yards and 11 scores and his ability to make smart plays with his arm and big plays with his legs has turned the Rice offense into a very difficult group to stop. But it is not all about McHargue. Driphus Jackson made an appearance in 11 games as a freshman and threw six touchdown passes. Coach Bailiff has the luxury to attempt to mix things up and use Jackson on occasion. Wide receiver Jordan Taylor is back after leading the Owls with 826 receiving yards and Donte Moore has the experience to turn into a pretty productive second option, but Rice will need to spend a little time finding new receivers. Former Wolverine and YouTube sensation Sam McGuffie is gone and tight ends Vance McDonald and Luke Willson were both drafted; in the second and fifth round, respectively. Senior Charles Ross and junior Turner Petersen are a couple quality backs who give the Owls yet another dangerous offensive option.

Like the offense, the Rice defense improved as the 2012 season progressed. With ten starters returning, there are high hopes that the defense can keep getting better in 2013. The pressure will be on the front four who are not the biggest or strongest players in Conference USA. The team allowed about five yards per carry last year and much of that falls on nose guard Hosam Shahin and tackle Christian Covington. Shahin is an experienced senior and Covington is full of potential, so there very well could be a drastic improvement in that regard. Linebackers Cameron Nwosu and James Radcliffe will help and Paul Porras, Malcolm Hill and Julius White are decent tacklers who can aid in run support when they are not busy providing coverage help for the corners.

The Bottom Line:
For Rice to take the next step and compete for a Conference USA title McHargue will need to stay healthy. He has a history of injuries, mostly due to his willingness to scramble and unwillingness to go down easy. The offensive line allowed 25 sacks against McHargue in 2012, not that it was all the fault of the offensive line, but they will want to keep the hits on McHargue to a minimum.

Projected Bowl:  Hawaii Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 201.77 (29th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 225.62 (67, 7)
Total Offense: 427.38 (44, 4)
Scoring Offense: 31.85 (41, 5)
Rushing Defense: 190.69 (87, 7)
Pass Defense: 235.23 (63, 4)
Total Defense: 425.92 (81, 5)
Scoring Defense: 30.00 (77, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.38 (39, 3)
Sacks: 2.15 (50, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.54 (94, 8)


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