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Bayou Bucket Preview: Houston vs. Rice

Houston opens the 2018 season against their rival.

Navy v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Start time: Saturday, Sept. 1 @ 11:00 am

Location: Rice Stadium

TV: CBSSN

Spread: Houston -26

Over/Under: 55.5

All-Time Series: Houston leads 30-11

Last Meeting: Houston 38, Rice 3 (Sept. 16, 2017)

College football season is back and ready to roll this weekend. If you’re one of those die-hard college football fans that wakes up and cracks a beer at 10 am on Game-day Saturdays, then tune in on CBSSN to this 11:00 am Houston showdown. For the Cougars, they get to strap up for an opener against their crosstown rivals at Rice Stadium. For the Owls, this will be their second game of the season after beating Prairie View A&M 31-28 on a time-expiring field goal last weekend in the opening volley of games.

3 Things to Look For: Houston Cougars

  • Ed Oliver & Co. After adding a respectable amount of transfers during the off-season such as Nick Watkins and Darrion Owens, this defensive lineup should be exciting to watch. Headlined by Ed Oliver, this defense should dominate an overall under-matched Rice offense that was 115th in Total Offense last year.
  • Starting quarterback D’Eriq King. After posting very impressive statistics through the final five games of the season (1,260 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs), he is expected to be the main offensive threat this season with his dual-threat ability.
  • Running back situation. Keep on eye on the transfer Terence Williams from Baylor, who broke out with a stellar season in 2016. The Cougars have a void to fill at RB position due to Duke Catalon leaving over the off-season, and Williams brings much needed experience and leadership to a relatively young running back group.

What This Game Means for Houston

A strong opening game can set a tone for the remainder of the season. A solid win here will be a huge morale boost and increase in momentum going into next week’s game against the Arizona Wildcats.

3 Things to Look For: Rice Owls

  • Emmanuel Esukpa. Rice is loving this guy after he had a monstrous game last week. The junior from Grand Prairie, Texas carved up the PVA&M defense by running for 173 yards and a touchdown over 32 carries. If he can bring that level of play into Saturday’s match-up, he could prove to be a challenge to stop and be a serious disruption to the Cougars’ defense.
  • Pass defense. After what started to seem like a blowout quickly turned into desperation mode due to the defense becoming as porous as a sponge in the middle quarters of the game. Jalen Morton of Prairie View A&M threw for three touchdowns in nine minutes in the second quarter. They’ll look to step up and limit a Houston receiving corp that’s going through a transitional phase with the losses of Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar.
  • A quarterback. The dynamic duo of Jackson Tyner and Shawn Stankavage threw for a combined 12-24 for 87 yards last week. They’re really skilled at handing the ball to Esukpa and Austin Walter though, since they handed off 43 times to those two alone.

They didn’t throw any interceptions though.

Yeah, well they didn’t throw any touchdowns either. Be better.

What This Game Means for Rice

A good showing against Houston will be a step in the right direction for the Owls this season and make a statement to their fellow C-USA programs that they’re not going to back down.

Prediction: Houston shouldn’t have any difficulty pulling away and taking command of this game early and often. Rice will be fighting tooth and nail for 60 minutes, but besides their run game they don’t have much to rely on. The Cougars are going to come out firing all cylinders and the Owls won’t be able to keep up when it’s all said and done. Houston 41, Rice 9