Start Time: 3:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 26
Location: McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas
TV: Fox Sports Network
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Records: Rice 2-1, Baylor 2-0. Baylor leads the overall series 47-30-2.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Rice +34.5, Over/Under: 76.
Rice Outlook: The Rice Owls head into this game at 2-1 on the season, but still reeling from a turnover filled loss to Texas in week two.
While the Owls are not one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, they have benefitted from good field position all season long. The offense’s average starting field position is at the 35 yard line, good for #18 nationally. Running the football a major part of the game plan with Rice running the ball on 70% of standard downs. Four running backs (Stewart, Dillard, Walter, and Davis) as well as quarterback Driphus Jackson have all rushed for 100 or more yards on the season, while averaging at least 4.8 yards per carry. Fumbles in the run game have been an issue with five total fumbles, three lost.
For a team that runs the ball most of the time, Jackson has been solid in the passing game when needed. Jackson is completing 63.2% of his passes, but is getting sacked on nearly 10% of his pass attempts. Dennis Parks is the top target for Jackson with 16 catches on 20 passes thrown his way. Just over 20% of the time in the passing game, the ball will be thrown to Parks.
The Rice defense has been unable to get on track as they would like in the first quarter of the 2015 season. The defense is giving up 346.7 yards per game and 27.3 points per game. The rush defense is giving up 4.5 yards per carry on the season, but only 136.7 total rushing yards per game. Linebacker Alex Lyons, as well as defensive ends Brian Womac and Derek Brown, have combined for 9.5 tackles for loss on the season. The defense has struggled versus the pass in giving up 9.4 yards per pass attempt and 18.5 yards per completion. While both of those averages are not good, the Owls are holding opponents to a 50.7% completion rate, allowing the defense to get off the field before more damage is done.
Baylor Outlook: The Bears are coming off of a bye week, and are sitting at 2-0 on the season with wins over SMU and Lamar.
The Bears have one of the best offenses in the nation after three weeks of action. According to advanced statistics, Baylor is the ninth most explosive, first most efficient, and fifth best at finishing drives. The offense is scoring 6.42 points per trip inside the opponent 40 yard line. Rushing numbers are gaudy with Shock Linwood (7.9 ypc.), Terence Williams (8.8 ypc.) Devin Chafin (5.6 ypc.) and Johnny Jefferson (10.6 ypc.) all over the 100 yard barrier for the season. Much of that success is due to a strong offensive line that returned several starters from last season. Junior quarterback Seth Russell has been another beneficiary of the excellent offensive line play. He has only been sacked once on the season in 64 pass attempts while throwing for over 700 yards. Jay Lee and Corey Coleman have been Russell’s top targets on the season with a combined 23 catches in two games on 36 targets. The duo is being thrown to on 54.6% of all pass attempts by Russell.
With an offense as explosive as Baylor’s, the overall defensive effectiveness tends to decrease. The Bears are giving up 26 points per game and 354.5 yards per game in the first two games of the season. The rush defense has been solid in giving up only 3.9 yards per carry on the season with teams running the ball 64.2% of the time. Four of the top six tacklers on the season are part of the front seven, led by linebacker Grant Campbell with 14 tackles, two for loss. Opponents have had middling success versus the Bears passing defense with only 6.2 yards per pass attempt. The defensive backfield has been credited with seven pass breakups and three interceptions so far this season.
Prediction: I do not see any way that this is a good matchup for the Owls. Baylor seems to have not lost a step on offense in putting up 62.0 points per game. The Bears do get a step up in competition versus Rice, a team that should be 3-0 if not for five turnovers versus Texas. Rice is putting up over 40 points per game on offense, but are having trouble slowing down opposing passing games. Rice is a heavy underdog in this game. While I do not condone gambling on games, if you have the chance to do so, take Rice and the +34.5. Rice will cover but not pull the upset. Baylor wins 56-31.