Kickoff: 7 p.m. CST
Location: TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas
Radio: SB Nation 1560
Betting Line: Houston is a 23-point favorite
Series Record: Houston 29 - Rice 11
In the era of conference realignment, a lot of traditional rivals went kaput, including Texas vs. Texas A&M.
Not many of them have made it back, which makes the return of the Bayou Bucket game a win for everyone, especially for the players involved.
“The game is enhanced just because of the relationships,” Rice coach David Bailiff said at his Tuesday press conference. “A lot of the players went to high school together. Every game is important. But it’s one where because of the relationships, and the distance in the city, it just enhances the importance of it also. It’s bragging rights in the city.”
The timing of the bucket’s return could not have been any better. Many Houstonians are still in recovery mode after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation. While football is secondary, it can be a welcomed distraction and sports in general can play a part in helping with healing.
“This is a great rivalry for both schools to have the Bayou Bucket back,” Houston coach Major Applewhite said. “It’ll be the first FBS game in the city of Houston this year, so it’ll be a great time for our city and a great day for our city.”
The athletic departments for both schools are accepting school supplies for Houston Intendent School District students below seventh grade at locations throughout the city and at TDECU Stadium prior to Saturday’s game.
This will be the first intra-city FBS game since the Cougars’ 31-26 win in 2013 at Reliant Stadium. In fact, UH has won three straight in the series. Rice’s last victory came in 2010, a 34-31 win at Rice Stadium. The Owls’ last win on the UH campus was in 2001.
“It would be great to get the trophy, the Bayou Bucket, back in the locker room,” Bailiff said. “We’ve had it in there a couple of times since I’ve been here and it’s a game that you take great pride in when you do win them. It’s a game where we’re going to have to execute in all phases and not make any critical errors because they are a great football team.”
The Owls limited the mistakes in a 31-14 win at UTEP on Saturday. Bailiff like how physical his team played.
“I thought the offensive line and defensive line were absolutely dominant,” he said. “We tackled well. Defensively, to hold (UTEP) to only 26 yards rushing and 1.1 yards per carry, that was a great performance.”
Houston ran for 158 yards on 37 attempts in Saturday’s 19-16 win at Arizona. But most of the headlines deservedly went to the performance of Ed Oliver. The sophomore totaled 11 tackles, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal at Arizona, and his effort level drew praise for both Applewhite and Bailiff.
“He truly is the most disruptive defensive lineman I’ve seen in college football,” Bailiff said. “He dominates football games. And if he’s not making the play, he’s disrupted the play somehow. And he doesn’t take plays off. A lot of great players, when they get tired, take plays off. He doesn’t take plays off. He plays hard every single snap.”
Houston has won 15 straight games at home, the longest streak in the country. The Cougars are coming off a big road win and have several players that will be difficult for Rice to match up with. A Houston blowout win is certainly possible, but rivalry games are tricky to predict. Rice clearly will be fired up and have a higher level of confidence after the UTEP win. The Owls will get it keep close for awhile, but Houston has too much firepower in the end. Houston 38-17.