Both teams are tied for the conference lead at 6-1, and both obviously need a win to get to the C-USA championship. This is also what would be considered the "rivalry game" for both, as they play for the coveted Bayou Bucket. The Bayou Bucket is awarded to the winner of each year's football game, and it's been sitting in the UH trophy case for the past several years. Rice is on a mission to bring it back to South Main.
This week's game is without a doubt more meaningful than any in the history of the series.
And honestly, this game would be a highly emotional, hard hitting game even if both teams were 0-11. But the fact that the Owls and Cougs are battling for a title makes the game even more big.
As in big time football. This is as good as it gets folks.
UH is a tough team. They are 7-4 overall, 6-1 in C-USA play. Most impressively, they absolutely destroyed what was thought to be the elite team in the conference, Tulsa, by a score of 70-30. They have incredible speed at their skill positions. They have a fantastic QB, and a pass rushing DE that has "NFL" written all over him. Beating them will take Rice's best game. Most believe Rice hasn't played "that game" yet - so Saturday could, and would, be the perfect time to put it all together.
Here's a closer look at the starting lineups for the Cougars...
POS ## OFFENSE
WR 88 E. J. Smith, 6-1 185 Fr. RS
WR 35 Tyron Carrier, 5-7 150 Fr. RS
WR 87 Mark Hafner, 6-3 235 Sr.
WR 82 Chaz Rodriguez, 6-2 185 So.
LT 59 Sebastian Vollmer, 6-8 315 Sr.
LG 73 Jordan Shoemaker, 6-3 270 So.
C 57 Carl Barnett, 6-2 285 Jr.
RG 64 Michael Bloesch, 6-2 295 Sr.
RT 70 Chris Thompson, 6-2 295 Fr. RS
QB 7 Case Keenum, 6-2 210 So.
RB 6 Andre Kohn, 5-10 195 So.
The UH Offense is ignited by Quarterback Case Keenum. He was this week's C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for his role in leading the Cougars back from a big first quarter deficit against UTEP. He's a dangerous runner and can throw the ball very well in UH's Spread Offense. He threw for 480 yards against UTEP.
As is usually the case, Houston also has a ton of speed on Offense. Tyron Carrier is only 5-7 and 170 pounds, but can absolutely fly. He's the latest Coug with legitimate 4.3 second speed in the forty. Bryce Beall leads the Cougars in rushing, having already gone over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. He was twice All-State at Tatum High School.
POS ## DEFENSE
DE 91 Tate Stewart, 6-3 250 Sr.
NT 56 Cody Pree, 6-2 310 Sr.
DT 38 Jake Ebner, 6-2 270 Sr.
RUSH 53 Phillip Hunt, 6-2 260 Sr.
SLB 40 C. J. Cavness, 6-1 210 Jr.
MLB 34 Cody Lubojasky, 6-3 230 Sr.
WLB 55 Marcus McGraw, 5-10 215 Fr.
LCB 21 Brandon Brinkley, 6-0 180 Jr.
SS 5 Ernest Miller, 6-0 195 Sr.
FS 28 Kenneth Fontenette, 6-0 185 Sr.
RCB 22 Loyce Means, 5-10 170 So.
The Cougar Defense is led by All-America candidate DE Phillip Hunt. He has 11 sacks already in 2008 and is what coaches call a "Sunday" player - meaning his next stop will be in the NFL. The leading tackler on the unit is true freshman Marcus McGraw, who was also recruited heavily by Rice. He stepped right into college football this season and has 85 stops for the year. Both starting Cornerbacks have 4 interceptions apiece, but Brandon Brinkley has 12 pass breakups as well.
More on the the game as we continue coverage of the "Battle For The Bucket"...