Baylor Gameday: Breaking Down Rice

The Baylor Bears travel to Houston to take on the Rice Owls in a big game to close out Baylor's non-conference schedule. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 on CBS College Sports. We break down Rice even further on the inside.

INSIDE SLANT

The story out of Rice continues to be the quarterback situation.

Here's a refresher...

Redshirt freshman Taylor McHargue won a drawn-out competition to be the starter during preseason camp. He started the first two games, the suffered a shoulder injury against North Texas.

In stepped Nick Fanuzzi, who started in 2009. Fanuzzi was unspectacular, but he did help the Owls to a gutsy win on the road against North Texas. He has played most of the last six quarters of football.

Last is Taylor Cook. His numbers were similar to that of Fanuzzi last week, but on a smaller scale because he didn't play as much.

So who will be trusted to take the majority of the snaps with Baylor coming to town?

Rice coach David Bailiff told the Houston Chronicle, "We have to see where Taylor (McHargue) is health-wise and how he is throwing the ball before we even start to think about it."

As of Monday, the Chronicle reported that McHargue was throwing the ball without any discomfort, so he could get his starting role back.

Whoever starts will need to eliminate turnovers and convert third downs, all to help keep Baylor's high-octane offense off the field.

Last week in the loss to Northwestern, turnovers, penalties and other mistakes were a big problem for Rice.

"We are a pretty good football team, but we don't have a large margin for error," Bailiff said. "We cannot overcome the errors we make. The four turnovers we had were the difference in the game. We have to eliminate those."

Rice also committed several untimely penalties, some of the most costly were for holding. That has to be addressed too because of Baylor's penchant to blitz.

If Baylor's defenders get to the quarterback, whoever it is, that signal caller needs to stay poised and make plays for Rice to pull the upset.

NOTES, QUOTES

--From a distance, Rice's offense looks good in the red zone. The Owls have scored in 9 of 10 drives that reached the red zone so far this season. The problem is that only three of those scores were touchdowns. Rice coach David Bailiff told the Houston Chronicle: "We're kicking way too many field goals. We need touchdowns when we get down there."

--One of the most romanticized former college football conferences is the Southwest Conference. The Owls face another former SWC rival in Baylor this week, their second of the season (Texas, Week One). Since the conference dissolved in 1996, this week is only the second time Rice has played Baylor. The first was 1997. "The Southwest Conference is good for guys who are my age who remember those days," Bailiff said. "It will be a good crowd because it is an old Southwest Conference school."

--Rice Stadium hasn't been a very friendly place for the Owls as of late. Rice has lost five of its last seven home games. Earlier this season, Rice also lost another game in its home city when Texas beat the Owls at Reliant Stadium.

SERIES HISTORY: Baylor leads, 45-30-2 (Last meeting, 2007, 42-17 Baylor)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Despite a lot of weapons, Rice's totals in the running game keep dropping from week to week. The Owls will have to run more effectively than they have all year if they want to keep the Bears' speed off the field. Because of Baylor's blitzing, Rice should get chances to make big plays in the passing game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: When a team has an elite running quarterback, such as Baylor's Robert Griffin, it can be tough. Rice may surrender a lot of yards, but it can't give up big plays. A bend-but-don't-break attitude might be helpful.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody in Texas knows whether they are in the Big 12 or Conference USA, you know about Baylor and their quarterback Robert Griffin. He is a great athlete. We are going to have to do our best to try and contain him." -- Rice LB Justin Hill

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Baylor at Rice, Sept. 25 -- Upsetting an old SWC rival at home would do a lot for Rice. First, it would give some longtime Owls football fans some bragging rights they haven't enjoyed in a while. Second, and more importantly, a win would make Rice 2-2 in non-conference play. That would mean coach David Bailiff's boys would still be in postseason contention.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Rice needs to play a conservative game to win. The Owls have to run the ball well, get key plays from an efficient passing game and take care of the ball. A defensively sound game with no untimely penalties and solid tackling could help keep potent Baylor out of the end zone, but Rice will need to win the turnover battle too.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Rice's quarterback -- This could be the toughest test so far for the Owls' passer, whoever starts. Baylor's blitzing defense, plus its ability to score, could put Rice in a passing situation early. If that happens, the Rice quarterback needs to stay calm in the face of that pressure and deliver smart throws.

RB Sam McGuffie -- The eagerly anticipated transfer has yet to have a marquee game, and what better time to do that than against Baylor. Lots of talk has surrounded Baylor and its playmaker, Robert Griffin. Watch how McGuffie responds.

FS Travis Bradshaw -- The leader of Rice's defense has to ensure that his unit is sharp and tackles well. He might have to be the one to make the big play (a la turnover) for the Owls.

ROSTER REPORT:

--S Tolu Akinqumi is out for the season because of a wrist injury, the second Rice player this has happened to this season.

--Owls WR Derek Clark could miss four weeks due to a shoulder injury.

--Another receiver, Pierre Beasley (concussion), is out, and C Keshawn Carrington (ankle) is doubtful for the Baylor game.


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