A quick look at Rice.
When the Rice Owls host SMU Mustangs Friday evening, the second year head coach David Bailiff hopes for a little role reversal.
Last year Bailiff took what appeared to be a loaded team in their first game of the year as the overall favor over Division 1AA Nichols State. The Owls had one of its worst games of the year under the new head coach and lost 16-14 to start the season off on a very sour note.
Now one year later, after having his offense and defense solidly in placed at the Houston school, he hopes to return the favor to another first year head coach taking over a program when June Jones arrives in Houston Friday night when the Owls take on SMU.
Bailiff now has a year under his belt, his offense took off in the second half of the season, including a come from behind win against the coach-less Mustangs. SMU led by 16 going into the fourth quarter before Rice kicks a field goal with no time showing on the clock to defeat the Mustangs 43-42.
Rice expects to be a much improved team this fall, returning 17 starters, eight on offense, eight on defense and one special team's specialist. More importantly the Owls return veteran quarterback Chase Clement who is projected by many to be Conference USA's best signal caller.
"You would think Rice should win the ballgame," said David Mooney Publisher of Owls Digest. "We are returning a veteran ball club and SMU has a new head coach and a true freshman starting at quarterback."
Rice, coming off a 3-9 overall season is hoping that they can continue their winning ways in Houston against SMU. The Mustangs haven't won a game at Rice since 1986.
The Owls return 98.3 percent of its rushing offense from last year, 100 percent of their passing offense from 2007.
Senior wide out Jarrett Dillard, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound wide receiver from San Antonio is expected to be Clement's top target in the Owls passing game.
While Bailiff had a successful head coaching career at Texas State, the Mustangs opponent next week, the second year coach is hoping to turn around the Rice program headed into year two.
One thing about past offensive performances in first games under Jones, it usually takes his team a while to understand the offense. While on paper it might appear that Rice should win this one, the game won't be played on paper but underneath the lights on a nationally televised game on ESPN 2 Friday night where anything can happen.