Week 13 – Rice at UTEP

Posted Nov 23, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction & Game Preview – Rice at UTEP

Rice (5-6) at UTEP (3-8) Nov. 24, 7:00, FCS

Here's The Deal: Rice wants to become bowl-eligible. UTEP wants to give its long-time head coach a proper send-off.

Ninth-year Miners coach Mike Price announced Monday that he's retiring, concluding a rocky tenure that started with such promise, yet ended with seven consecutive losing seasons. Price never won a bowl game in El Paso or succeeded in getting the program on par with West Division rivals Houston, Tulsa and SMU. He has endorsed current defensive coordinator Andre Patterson, one of a number of candidates AD Bob Stull will consider between now and the end of the year.

Miraculously, the Owls are a win away from reaching .500 and vying for a bowl bid. It's been quite a turnaround engineered by beleaguered head coach David Bailiff, whose team was once on life support at 1-5. Rice hammered SMU last week, 36-14, and has only lost to 9-2 Tulsa over the past month.

Why Rice Might Win: Confidence will be no problem for a team coming off its most complete win in years.

The offense kept rolling behind versatile QB Taylor McHargue and his eclectic backs. The defense got a pair of sacks apiece from ends Cody Bauer and Jared Williams. And PK Chris Boswell filled in the blanks by connecting on a school-record five field goals, three from 50 yards. The Owls just keep finding new heroes and new ways to win, the markings of a program that has turned the corner in its evolution.

Why UTEP Might Win: Price is well-liked on this campus. The players plan to show him how much with a walk-off victory.

There'll be plenty of emotion at the Sun Bowl, which the Miners hope to harness and transform into better execution on the field. The Rice defense has been up-and-down all year, yielding 476 passing yards to Tulane's Ryan Griffin just two weeks ago. UTEP has perked up with the ball lately, getting a spark from athletic QB Blaire Sullivan and RB Nathan Jeffery. Jeffery is a budding star, with two scores in each of the last three games.

What To Watch Out For: Bailiff and his staff have been real pleased with the play of the pass rushers lately, not the kind of sentiment that gets tossed around often in Houston. Bauer and Williams have been factors, but so has NT Hosam Shahin. The Owls are a respectable fourth in Conference USA in sacks, which could present a problem for Sullivan. The rookie has been exciting, but is also prone to mistakes when flushed from the pocket.

What Will Happen: Both schools have motivation as the regular season winds down. Rice, though, has better talent and a larger head of steam. The Owls are playing rather well by their standards, and will continue to do so in Price's finale as a head coach. With the postseason carrot in front of him, McHargue will cop MVP honors, accounting for 300 yards and a couple of scores.

CFN Prediction: Rice 34 … UTEP 28
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) UTEP -1 O/U: 56
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 2