HEAD TO HEAD: ARMY VS. RICE

Army meets Rice on Saturday at Michie Stadium. ArmySports.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. He also makes a prediction on the game's final score.

The Army Black Knights play the Rice Owls this Saturday at Michie Stadium. Rice enters with a two game win winning streak after opening with three straight losses. The Owls are rebuilding this year after posting their third 10-win season in their history last fall. Rice defeated Hawaii 28-14 last week. Army enters the game off a 33-24 victory over Ball State at Michie Stadium. Rice leads the all-time series 2-1-1.

ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
RICE PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: RICE
REMARKS: Angel Santiago came off the bench and replaced starter A.J. Schurr. Santiago completed 2-of-3 passes for 48 passing yards. Santiago completed an 11-yard pass to Raymond Maples to set up Grochowski's second field goal. He then hit wide receiver Edgar Poe with a 37-yard bomb to set up a touchdown. Angel's pass hung in the air forever but Poe used his size to shield Ball State's Tyree Holder and pull it in. On the season Santiago has been very accurate completing 18-of-22 passes (78.3%) for 288 passing yards. Schurr, who has split action the last two weeks, is 7-of-17 passing (41.2%) for 123 passing yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Wide receiver Edgar Poe leads the Black Knights with six receptions for 141 yards, a 19.0 average and a touchdown. If forced to pass the Black Knights may have trouble with the speed and blitz packages of the Owls.

Rice's starting defensive backfield is an experienced unit that has posted 21 career interceptions. The senior strong safety Malcolm Hill (50 tackles, 3 interceptions in 2013) picked off his sixth career pass against Texas A&M. Cornerback Bryce Callahan ranks third among active FBS players with 11 career interceptions. He is on the Thorpe Award watch list for the nation's best defensive backs. The Owls are ranked 111th in pass defense after getting beaten up by two top twenty teams in the first two weeks. Cornerback Ryan Pollard (9 tackles, INT, 2 PDs) is an Air Force transfer who appeared mostly on special teams for the Falcons as a freshman in 2011. The Owls are very aggressive in their pass rush packages. They sacked Hawaii seven times last week and have 15 sacks on the season. Defensive ends Brian Nordstom (14 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 QBH) and Grayson Schantz (10, 5 TFL, 3 sack, QBH) are tied with the team lead in sacks with three each and can bring pressure off the edge. Rice uses a lot of blitz packages and looks with nine different players recording sacks. .

ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
RICE RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: ARMY
REMARKS: The Black Knights moved up to second in the country in rushing after last week. The Black Knights are averaging over 338 rushing yards per game. Last week Army ran for 425 yards, averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns. Larry Dixon ran 28 times for a career high 188 yards. Dixon ripped off a forty yard run to set up the second touchdown. He ran with power and converted two third down runs on the final touchdown drive. Angel Santiago came off the bench to run for 89 yards on 13 carries and scored the game clinching touchdown. He had back to back long runs of 27 and 37 yards respectively to set up a field goal. Santiago has run for 360 yards, a 5.7 average and five touchdowns this year.

Owls' 4-2-5 defense is a small, speed-based defense. Junior tackle Christian Covington (59 tackles, 11.5 for loss in 2013), is a talented lineman who was a preseason All-American candidate. Covington is off to a slow start after being injured early this season. He's posted seven tackles and a sack so far this year. Covington has been named to the preseason lists for the Outland Trophy, the Lott Impact Trophy and for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Rotary Lombardi Awards. Jaylon Finner, the KAT or rover backer, leads the team with 29 tackles and four pass defenses. Strong side linebacker Alex Lyons has posted 23 tackles, a sack and two quarterback hurries. Weak side linebacker James Radcliffe (63 tackles in 2013) has been in on 19 tackles. Rice is ranked 58th in the nation against the run and is allowing over 146 rushing yards per game.

RICE PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: RICE
REMARKS: The Owls passing game ranks 73rd in the nation behind new starting quarterback Driphus Jackson The junior has completed 73-of-123 passes (59.4%) for 976 yards with 8 touchdowns against three picks. Most of last year's bowl bound receiver corps returned this season. Senior Jordan Taylor (55 receptions for 848 yards, 8 TDs in 2013) is a huge 6-5 wide receiver who's size may give the Army secondary fits. Mario Hull is another tall home run threat with 12 receptions for 228 yards, a 19 yard average and two scores this season. Junior Dennis Park is a possession receiver who leads the team with 16 receptions for 155 yards. Zach Wright has emerged this season with 14 catches for 172 yards and a team leading two scores. Rice employs three receivers, a tight end and one running back in its offensive system.

The Black Knights pass defense is ranked 84th in the nation this year. Army is allowing over 257 passing yard a game. The opposition is completing 67 % of their passes and has thrown 13 touchdowns against Army this year. Sophomore cornerback Josh Jenkins is the Black Knights best coverage man. He has recorded 26 tackles, made two interceptions and has knocked down six passes. Chris Carnegie (20 tackles, Int., 3 PD, FR, FF) forced a fumble from Ball State's Jahwan Edwards last week. He also recovered the fumble which set up Army's first touchdown. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman blitzed more last week but Army has recorded just five sacks this season.

RICE RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: RICE
REMARKS: Rice is ranked 37th the country in rushing. They are averaging 205 rushing yards per game. Speedy sophomores Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard split time at running back. Davis leads the team with 440 rushing yards on 100 carries with two touchdowns. Dillard is very elusive and has run for 334 yards on 65 carries and has five scores. Dillard ran for a career-high 141 yards and two touchdowns last week versus Hawaii. Junior Luke Turner is a 230-pound running back used in short yardage situations and has scored twice. Driphus Jackson is a mobile dual-threat quarterback. Jackson has run for 161 yards. He is fast and ripped off a 43-yard run against Southern Miss this year.

Army's 3-4 defense is ranked 94th in the nation against the run and allowing 188 rushing yard per game. The Black Knights often struggle at the point of attack. The linebackers often fail to maintain their gap responsibilities and the lack of team speed is often exposed as a result. Inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf has proven to be a playmaker in his first season as a starter. He leads the Black Knights in tackles with 46, tackles for a loss with 5 1/2, interceptions with three and is tied for the lead in passes defensed. His fellow inside linebacker Andrew King had his best game last week against Ball State. King made ten tackles and had a number of key stops. He tackled Ball State's Ozzie Mann for a loss after he fumbled a fourth-and-1 snap to turn the Cardinals over on downs. Andrew made a nice tackle when Edwards tried bounce outside to keep him pinned inside his own five on one series. It helped set up a short field and an Army field goal. King later had two big stops inside their own five to hold Ball State to a field goal. Free safety Steven Johnson (28, 2 PD) is a very good athlete but hasn't played much safety and it shows. His tackling needs to improve and become more consistent. Johnson is starting in place of the injured team captain Geoffrey Bacon. Army has had trouble defending mobile quarterbacks who can scramble like Jackson.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Rice junior James Farrimond handles the punting and has now replaced James Hairston as kicker. Farrimond has hit 2 of 3 field goals and all his extra points. As a punter Farrimond is averaging 43.9 yards per punt with four punts placed inside the twenty yard line. Farrimond is on the Ray Guy Award watch list. He has a very strong leg with six of his 24 punts traveling over fifty yards. His longest punt this year was 67 yards. Hairston still handles kickoffs but was only 2-of-6 on field goal attempts. Brandon Hamilton is averaging 31.3 on kick returns. Hamilton has returned a kickoff 43 yard this year. The punt returner Bryce Callahan is averaging 3.5 yards per punt returns. Rice struggles covering kicks. Fortunately for them James Hairston has a strong, if inaccurate, leg that usually booms the ball out of the end zone. Hairston has 20 touchbacks on 27 kickoffs.

What a difference a week makes on special teams. Dan Grochowski hit his first two field goals this season. He nailed one from 43-yards and a chip shot from 21-yards. It was a nice rebound performance. He didn't practice all week due to an illness. Maybe the coaches shouldn't have Dan practice each week. Punter Alex Tardieu has been consistent all year long. He is averaging 40.3 yards on 20 punts with good hang time. Tardieu had eight punts fair caught, placed eight inside the 20-yard line and boomed three over fifty yards Josh Jenkins showed a good burst on a 39-yard kickoff return. Army averted disaster twice on the punt team last week. Jenkins dropped a punt but it was alertly covered by Jared Rogers. Plebe Alex Aukerman made a mental mistake on a downed punt when he failed to peel back and was nearly hit by the ball because he was too close after the punt bounced. Army may have caught a break on that play.

COACHING
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: David Bailiff is an underrated coach in my opinion. He has twice led the Owls to 10 wins, matching Jess Neely’s 1949 squad for the most in school history. They won a conference championship last year and he has twice led the Owls to bowl wins (2008 Texas Bowl; 2012 Armed Forces Bowl). Twice he's been named Conference USA Coach of the Year. Bailiff has a career 62-66 coaching record. Rice has won 17 of its last 24 games.

Jeff Monken did a nice job getting his team ready to play off an embarrassing loss at Yale. I liked the decisive move of going to Santiago at quarterback after Schurr was sloppy with the ball. They had only one penalty all day and that was a huge improvement. It was a nice and much needed victory. Offensive coordinator Brent Davis did a great job retooling his offensive line with two new starters. It was a big improvement and there were no penalties by the line. He needs to get Maples in the backfield more with Baggett and ignore the A-back designation for both. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman's unit rebounded last week. The fourth quarter defensive meltdowns are still an issue.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Rice has won two straight games after opening the season with three losses. They are looking to get back to .500 for a win. Their defensive staff crushed Air Force's option attack 33-14 in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl. Rice has won 17 of their last 24 games. Rice has a 2-1-1 advantage over Army in the series. Army plays a lot better at Michie Stadium and have won both games played on Blaik Field this year. The Black Knights received a much needed confidence boost after the Ball State victory.

PREDICTION: RICE 31, ARMY 24. Army should be able to run the ball on Rice but I like Rice's team speed on athleticism on both sides of the ball. This isn't as good a Rice team as last year but I think the Owls have turned the corner. The Black Knights are a different and much better team at Michie Stadium. This is a winnable game for Army. However, I think the Black Knights defense may have a tough time with the size of Rice’s receivers and the difference in the Owls' speed at running back and quarterback against the Army front seven.

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