Nicholls State - Game One

The David Bailiff Era of Rice Owl Football officially kicks off this Saturday September 1, 7:00 pm at Rice Stadium. The Owls face the Nicholls State Colonels, a Division I-AA opponent from the Southland Conference.

The Owls have worked extremely hard since last year's season, both off the field in the weight room and on the field in practices. Since last year's amazing season that ended in Rice's first trip to a bowl game in 46 years the players have been through a lot. They have a new coach for one - and in spite of that I think each player would tell you things are better now on South Main than last year. That new coach is David Bailiff of course- and he has quickly built a solid team chemistry with these basic principles: trust, accountability, and a genuine regard for his players. The team is excited to be playing for him – just as he is excited to be coaching them. The entire team has worked hard for Saturday. Amongst all the changes, one thing remains unchanged - they believe they can win this year. What must they do to accomplish that Saturday against the Colonels? Let's look..

Upon first glance, Nicholls State is a Division I-AA opponent picked to finish 6th in the SLC in an SLC coach's poll. It would be real easy to think "easy W", right? Not so fast - some points to consider that may make this game tougher than we'd like:

Nicholls State beat Texas State 2 of 3 games while Coach Bailiff was at Texas State...

The Colonels have a Pre-Season All American of their own on offense: Fullback Broderick Cole, What makes an Option offense successful? Among other things a good fullback...

Their defense was ranked number one in the SLC in scoring defense and pass defense last year - one would have to say our passing game is a little more solid than the ground game at this point…

They have a big safety (6-2 203) named Kareem Moore who was 2006 Newcomer of the Year and is a Pre-Season All Conference pick once again...

They can't match up with our athletes right? Not so fast, they have several D-I transfers starting on the team – and from programs like Alabama, LSU, Southern Miss, Mississippi State and Clemson...

Do I think the Owls will win - yes. But I also think Coach Bailiff and the Owls are taking this game very seriously. Let's look at some of the battles within the war.

Key Matchups:

Brian Raines vs. Broderick Cole – if Raines, and the interior line, can take away the dive play and keep the Colonels running east and west, the Owls chances of a big win go way up.

Jarett Dillard vs. Jermaine Boggan – physically these two match up similarly. JD will assuredly see bracket coverage from a safety too. Boggan is a senior and was Honorable Mention SLC last year, but I like JD in this matchup if we can get into one on one scenarios.

Rice CBs vs. Nicholls WRs – I don't think coverage is the issue here, simply because the Colonels don't throw the ball much. The real challenge for our corners will be anchoring against the run. The Colonels receivers, are 6-6 225 (Patrick Gordon is a transfer from Alabama) and 6-4 220 (Michael Okoronkwo).

Rice OL vs. Nicholls DL – the Colonels graduated several players from their defense of last year. They will have several new faces on the D-line (as well in the LB corps). I think Chase and Co. will get their points through the air – the real key for me is for the Owls rushing game to show up with 150 yards or more.

Bottom Line: Nicholls State will have a hard time catching up if we can put up a lot of points on the board (remember that scenario?). They don't throw the ball a lot and aren't a quick strike passing offense. We must not give up the big play and make them burn the clock to score, if at all. We have to stay disciplined. Why is that important? Option football is the same thing over and over, it can get you thinking ahead because you saw the same formation and made the same reads 5 times in a row, then "BAM" you give up a big play because you cheated up, or you gave up leverage with one too many steps. It exploits the instincts and tendencies of all good defensive players: to try to predict where the play will go. I think the Owls win, but it may be closer than we'd like. See you at the game..

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