2012 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in C-USA)
Head Coach: David Bailiff (30-44 at Rice, 51-59 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Armed Forces Bowl: beat Air Force 33-14
Stadium: Rice Stadium in Houston, TX (capacity = 70,000)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 34th out of 55 mid-major teams
Toughest Conference Home Game: 11/16 vs Louisiana Tech
Toughest Conference Road Game: 10/5 at Tulsa
Stats to Fear: allowed 33 sacks (10th in C-USA), allowed opponents to score TDs on 72.34% of red zone trips (last in C-USA)
Stats to Cheer: converted 45.45% of third downs (3rd in C-USA), held opponents to 37.06% conversion rate on third downs (2nd in C-USA)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 80th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 10, Special Teams: 2
Key Defensive Returnees: KAT Paul Porras (93 tackles), LB Cameron Nwosu (92 tackles, 7 TFL), DE Cody Bauer (5.5 sacks, 12 TFL), DT Hosam Shahin (5 sacks, 9.5 TFL)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Taylor McHargue (2209 yds rush, 59.7% completions, 12 pass TD, 5 INT, 11 rush TD), RB Charles Ross (800 yds rush, 5.4 ypc), RB Turner Petersen (591 yds rush), WR Jordan Taylor (57 rec)
This will be David Bailiff's seventh season with the Owls and in his tenure they have never had back-to-back winning seasons. With the re-shuffling of the deck in Conference USA, this will be his best shot.
Taylor McHargue returns for his senior season and he can make opponents pay with his arm and his feet (12 TD passes and 11 TD rushes). Rice runs the ball over 60% of the time and they have a senior laden running back group led by Charles Ross (800 yds rush) and Turner Peterson (591 yds rush). The passing game will take a hit with the loss of Sam McGuffie and Vance McDonald. Look for WR Jordan Taylor to be even more of a target then he was last season (57 catches with 9 of those coming in the bowl game). The OL returns five guys that have 12 or more starts and should be in good shape.
Rice's defense showed improvement in 2012 but was still a middle of the pack C-USA defense. The DL returns three players that had five or more sacks (DE Cody Bauer, NT Hosam Shahin and DT Christian Covington). The LB corps returns their top two leading tacklers. The secondary returns pretty much everybody. This should be a unit that continues to improve and builds off of 2012.
The outlook for Rice is positive and maybe even more-so after you look at their schedule. They open at Texas A&M but after that they have two winnable non-conference games against Kansas and Houston. The only two conference games they will most likely be the underdog in is at Tulsa (10/5) and versus Louisiana Tech (11/16). The Owls avoid what I think will be the top four teams in the East (Marshall, ECU, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss). It would not shock me to see this team win nine games but let's be conservative and say they go 8-4 and get Bailiff his first back-to-back win seasons as head coach.
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