Rice, Like Army, Is A Mystery
PIGSKINS FINELY POISED: RICE SITS ON THE FENCE BETWEEN SUCCESS AND FAILURE
The arrival of week seven means that the season is near the midpoint. With many teams having arrived at a bye week, a lot of FBS schools will have played six games, half their total, following this Saturday. It’s sometimes hard for even a full 12-game slate to reveal everything there is about a team. A year ago, Baylor lost a road game due to injuries, and was therefore a question mark heading into its bowl game. The Bears probably caused even more questions to be asked when they didn’t thump UCF in their bowl game. Other teams can go through a regular season and not be identified in full. Their non-conference schedule can be soft, and their conference opponents might be banged up or unexpectedly frail. The home-road schedule rotation could be uniquely favorable. The way teams play in September can markedly differ from how they play in October or early November. Various teams might catch an opponent at the right – or wrong – time.
A college football season is, in short, a mystery more than a known entity when the middle of the season rolls around. Such is the case for Army, but it’s also the case for the Black Knights’ opponent this upcoming weekend at Michie Stadium.
The Rice Owls entered this season as the reigning Conference USA champions. Head coach David Bailiff has done an above-average job with the Houston-based program, which has known hard times for most of the past half-century. Rice was the team that contained and flustered Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato in last December’s C-USA Championship Game, a central manifestation of how well the Owls could play defense. Rice had to be optimistic about its chances in Conference USA’s West Division this season, but after absorbing a pair of expected losses to Notre Dame and Texas A&M, the Owls were supposed to beat FBS newcomer (and C-USA conference member) Old Dominion.
After surrendering 430 passing yards and 45 points to the Monarchs at home, Rice walked away staggered and stuttering, wondering how it could go from conference champ to ambush victim at home against a brand-new FBS program. The loss to Old Dominion immediately thrust Rice into a point of peril, and Bailiff had to wonder what kind of team he had on his hands.
A few weeks later, the outlook seems better for Rice. The Owls have allowed an average of under 20 points in two contests, picking up a pair of wins. However, the cautionary note to be advanced here is that the victories came against teams that have been conspicuously feeble over the past few college football seasons, Southern Mississippi and Hawaii.
Army doesn’t know what kind of team it’s facing on Saturday. That’s fitting… because the up-and-down Black Knights don’t entirely know what kind of team they are, either.
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