Start Time: 6:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 5
Location: Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas
Records: First meeting between the two programs.
Live Stats: Here.
Betting Line: No line.
Rice Outlook: The Owls are coming off of a second place finish in the CUSA West Division last fall with hopes to pry the title away from Louisiana Tech this fall. Quarterback Driphus Jackson (191-331/2,842/24TD) is back for his senior year after throwing for 2,800 yards and rushing for 400 yards as a junior. Jackson is flanked by a pair of talented running backs in Jowan Davis (245/956/6TD) and Darik Dillard (134/652/11TD). The Owls are not deep at wide receiver but return Dennis Parks (29/389/1TD) and Zach Wright (25/299/3TD) as pass catching options for Jackson. Only senior Andrew Reue and Caleb Williams, both making all 13 starts in 2014, have signicant experience on the offensive line.
Defensively, Rice is looking to replace several players lost to graduation but do return linebackers Alex Lyons (71 tkl) and Nick Elder (40 tkl) for the upcoming season. Linebacker is by far the most experienced and productive position group on defense back for the 2015 season. Helping alongside in the front seven is defensive lineman Graysen Schantz (21 tkl, 7 tfl, 3 sacks), the only defensive lineman returning with more than 20 tackles last fall. Defensive back Ryan Pollard (27 tkl, 2 INT) is the only Owls defensive back with any real experience.
Wagner Outlook: The Wagner Seahawks are an FCS program that has only been to the FCS playoffs once in the last ten years with a loss to Eastern Washington in 2013. The Seahawks have only recently started to play FBS teams in the last three seasons, only coming close to an upset in 2013 with a 7-3 loss to Florida Atlantic. Wagner has 10 former FBS players on the roster spanning from UNLV to Nebraska to Syracuse.
Wagner returns seven offensive starters including quarterback Chris Andrew, running back Otis Wright, and wide receivers Lloyd Smith and Isaiah GIlls. Three returning offensive linemen also dot an offense that only socred 20.7 points per game last season. The Seahawks have five returning starters, all seniors, led by defensive linemen John Aubel and Al Page from a defense that gave up only 18.0 points per game last fall. Linebackers Greg Hillard and Stephon Font-Toomer as well as defensive back Deangelo James also return after starting in 2014.
Prediction: Just do not get anyone hurt in this game and Rice will be happy. The Owls are much more talented than Wagner and should be able to get lots of playing time early in the season for several important young players. Rice will start the season 1-0, it is just a matter of how big the point spread ends up being.