Man, Rice is one of the worst combinations of names I've ever seen. It's unfortunate. At least this post is sweet! (Not really.)
Thus far: So, coming off a 2-10 season last year - one they started off 0-9, one where only one of their losses came by less than 17 points, where they allowed 298 more points than they scored on the season, good for about 25 per game, despite the fact that they only averaged 18 points per game, and one where they lost to Vanderbilt, who also went 2-10, one where they were one of the worst offenses and one of the worst defenses in the nation, where they suffered four losses by more than 40 points, allowed over 60 points on two occasions- a 1-1 start is pretty encouraging, right? Especially considering that the one loss was against No. 5 Texas, and they scored 17 points, which isn't that bad, right? But it gets a lot worse when the one win is a 32-31 victory over North Texas. You might remember North Texas from the time they were ranked No. 120 out of 120 teams in the nation by Pre-Snap Read. It was a hard-fought battle that needed a late fourth-quarter drive by backup quarterback Nick Fanuzzi for Rice to squeeze out with the W.
Us and them: Rice has never been a football powerhouse, but they're 4-1 against Northwestern, including a 50-6 romp in 1967 and a 36-7 win in 1991. However, NU's last taste of Rice was a good one - a 23-14 win over Rice in Houston in 1998.
When they got the ball: For the second straight week, NU faces a feature transfer running back: Sam McGuffie transferred to Rice from Michigan, but his two games in gothic lettering have been kinda iffy. First off, he's behind Tyler Smith - a junior who had backed up true freshman Charles Ross the year before. Second off, running the ball, he's just been downright bad, averaging 2.3 yards per carry on 28 attempts. However, he is a key factor in their air game - he had a 51-yard touchdown off a reception at the beginning of the North Texas game, and is second on the team in receiving yards and receptions. Smith had a 48-yard carry last week, and Ross, despite leading the team in rushing last year, appears to be relegated to short-yardage stuff this year. As for the air attack, we're hitting the Owls at a bad time: their starter, Taylor McHargue, hurt his shoulder against North Texas. But it's not necessarily a bad thing for the Owls: McHargue was 9-21 on the season with two touchdowns and a pick. Not great numbers, especially considering his horrific 3-10 with 56 yards - 51 on the one pass to McGuffie - against North Texas. So Nick Fanuzzi took over and immediately led the team down the field for a touchdown, then followed up with a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter. His main target isn't a wide receiver - not really much from the team in the WR department, by the way - but tight end Luke Willson, who probably gets enough jokes about it anyway, so keep your Bottle Rocket references to a minimum.
When we got the ball: The player whose name you'll hear the most is Travis Bradshaw, Rice's free safety, who led the team in tackles last year - he had 121 tackles, the next place finisher had 63 - and is currently leading them again. This is because of Rice's horrific pass defense: only six picks last year, and only in the first two games, and really no cornerbacks of note. Also, they only claim to start two "linebackers" - their depth chart has three safeties listed, a free safety, a strong safety, and something they label as the "KAT" position. I assume this is their way of saying "we give up at trying to stop you from passing the ball". Surely enough, they allowed 296 yards passing last week against North Texas. Scott Solomon was the team's best player on the line last year at the nose tackle spot, but he's out for the season, so a makeshift line is up front - they only have one sack in the first two games and let North Texas' Lance Dunbar go for a 104-yard game last week.