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Rice at Army Game Preview

Owls and Black Knights exchange pleasantries for the third straight season as Army looks to match its 2015 win total. 

NCAA Football: Army at Rice Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Kickoff Time: Noon EST, Saturday, Sept. 10

Location: Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Streaming: CBSsports.com

Betting Line: Army is a 9-point favorite

Series Record: Rice leads 4-1-1

Game Outlook

For the third straight year Rice and Army lock horns, but this time the Black Knights have the better record. Army (1-0) defeated Temple 28-13 for the school’s first win in 13 tries at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Rice (0-1) was trounced by Western Kentucky 46-14 in Bowling Green.

The Owls defeated Army 41-21 in the 2014 game and pulled out a win in the rain last season in Houston. Zach Wright hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left to cement Rice’s 38-31 victory. Army finished 2-10 in 2015.

“We played them the past two years and it feels almost like a conference game,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “They beat us by 20 points the last time they were here, they are a talented and physical football game. When you’re a school like we are, and you play an independent schedule, you always feel after a loss, ‘I’d like to get a chance to try that again.’ We have that chance.”

Army’s triple-option attack can cause headaches, and it isn’t easy to prepare for. Fortunately for Rice, they’ve had practice. Rice coach David Bailiff said the Owls spent three days in the spring working on Army’s offense and another three days during Rice’s two-a-days in August.

“You have to have a hat on the fullback,” Bailiff said. “You have to make sure you have a hat on the quarterback. They’re running the triple option then all of a sudden it’s the midline where it’s a totally different offensive play and scheme coming at you. Guys have to be disciplined. They have to read their keys.”

Army ran for 329 yards in its opening win. Linebacker-turned-fullback Andy Davidson led the way with 121 yards and two touchdowns. Black Knights quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw added another 50 rushing yards. Army only attempted five passes all game.

The Black Knights rushed for 250 yards against Rice in 2014 and 378 yards in last year’s contest.

While Rice gave up a ton of passing yards (technically about a half ton, 552) against WKU, the Owls did well against the run. The Hilltoppers only managed 3.2 yards a carry. Rice held WKU to two yards or less on 21 of 30 carries, including three for loss and eight for no gain.

Outside of quarterback Tyler Stehling, Rice had its own trouble running the football. In fact, Stehling, accounted for 93 percent of Rice’s yardage.

“We couldn’t our running game established,” Bailiff said. “We tried to work the perimeter but we never could get our running game going. We rushed for 107 (yards) and Tyler had 85 of those yards.”

3 Fun Facts

  1. Army had three interceptions against Temple. They had six all of last season.
  2. Rice is 8th in the nation net punting (45.3 yards); Army is 125th in the same category (21 yards)
  3. Army’s lone win in the series came in 1958.

Prediction

Playing a run-oriented team works in Rice’s favor, and the fact that some Rice defenders will be playing against the triple-option a third time also will help. However, the Black Knights will be confident after the Temple win and have both home-field advantage and the revenge factor. It may come down to turnovers or late-game execution. Final: Army 30, Rice 28.