The Owls are appearing in their second bowl game in 3 years, and the first under Head Coach David Bailiff in only his second year at Rice.
For the Owls, the game has several advantages. The bowl is essentially another home game for them. Reliant Stadium is 5 minutes from the Rice campus.
Obvious advantages include maintaining a consistent practice schedule, being able to sleep in their own beds and eat meals they are used to, and one unique advantage is that they won't be impacted by travel schedules. In addition, recruits are allowed to visit bowl practices. Rice has 14 current verbal commits, and in addition is looking to add up to 5 more to their stellar Class of 2009.
A brief summary of the possible opponents...
Notre Dame - easily the highest profile opponent of any being discussed right now. This would be a fantastic opponent for the Owls - more than anything else because beating a team like Notre Dame would be an outstanding achievement, regardless of the Irish' record this year of 6-6. Despite their struggles, Notre Dame is a very talented team that has recruited well in recent years, so beating them won't be easy.
Central Michigan - from the Mid American Conference, the Chippewas finished their season at 8-4 and repeated as MAC Champions in 2008, after also winning the title in 2007. CMU beat Indiana, Western Michigan, Temple, and Buffalo this year so they have a potent Offense. They ranked 25th in the country in Total Offense in final standings. They also ranked first in the country in punt returns.
Western Michigan - another MAC team, the Western Michigan Broncos are statistically similar to CMU. However, they finished the regular season at 9-3. Like CMU, they also beat a Big 10 team this year when they took down Illinois 23-17. They rank one notch behind CMU in Total Offense at 26th in the country, but are 10th nationally and 1st in the MAC in Passing Offense.
In summary, Notre Dame has a roster full of talent to prep for, while the Offenses of the Michigan schools will be of concern.
Regardless of their opponent, the game will be a special one for Rice seniors. The group led by Chase Clement, Jarett Dillard, Brian Raines and others has seen and been through just about everything during their time on South Main. They've had 3 head coaches and a variety of schemes to master - yet they've risen to every challenge and etched their names as one of the most resilient classes in Rice Football history. Their leadership is simply incomparable.
No doubt the coaches will prepare the team to win this game, just as they've done all season. They'll have a lot of help from a group of seniors that has never, ever quit though. And you can count on them doing everything possible to win their last contest wearing the Blue and Gray.
We'll have a full preview and analysis of the Owls' opponent as soon as a selection is announced. Tickets for the Texas Bowl are on sale now - packages of 4 tickets are available for as little as $89. Get yours today!