Rice 2006 Preview
Rice Owls
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Yes, you can win at Rice. It has been done before.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Because of the small enrollment and the tough academic restrictions, Rice might be seen as an impossible rebuilding project on the scale of what Turner Gill has to do at Buffalo and Al Golden has in front of him at Temple, but new head man Todd Graham at least has a little bit of history on his side with an 8-4 record as recently as 2001. However, for Rice to win, it needs to do something a bit quirky since it doesn't get the top players that other schools can get.

Navy has proved that you can win with an option offense, and under former head coach Ken Hatfield, this was the type of quirky team that always caught averaged defenses off guard. Now, Graham will try to win with the spread offense, and it's going to take time.

Head coach: Todd Graham
1st. year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Owl Players
1. S Chad Price, Sr.
2. P Jared Scruggs, Sr.
3. S Andray Downs, Sr.
4. RB Quinton Smith, Sr.
5. WR Jarett Dillard, Soph.
6. NG George Chukwu, Jr.
7. OT Rolf Krueger, Sr.
8. LB Vernon James, Soph.
9. CB JaCorey Shepherd, Soph.
10. QB Chase Clement, Soph.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 Houston
9/9 at UCLA
9/16 Texas
9/23 at Florida State
9/30 at Army
10/7 at Tulane
10/14 UAB
10/21 at UCF
11/4 at UTEP
11/11 at Tulsa
11/18 East Carolina
11/25 SMU

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 1
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/10 at UCLA L 63-21
9/17 at Texas L 51-10
10/1 at UAB L 45-26
10/8 at East Carolina L 41-28
10/15 Tulsa L 41-21
10/22 Navy L 41-9
10/29 UTEP L 38-31
11/5 at SMU L 27-7
11/12 Tulane W 42-34
10/19 UCF L 31-28
11/26 at Houston L 35-18

To give Owl fans hope that the program can potentially be a player, look to Northwestern, a great academic institution that has the same issues as Rice. The Wildcats have not only thrived with a version of the spread, they've been successful in the Big Ten. However, they need everything to break the right way to come up with winning seasons, and Rice will eventually need the same sort of luck.

For this year, it's all about just getting from phase one to phase two and getting the team in line with what the coaching staff wants to do. The previous regime made a passing nod to throwing it more when it tried to implement a bit of a spread offense in an effort to save a sinking ship, but Rice still finished dead last in the nation in passing. Graham has to make the square pegs fit into the round holes and hope for quarterback Chase Clement to use the next three years to grow into the type of all-around playmaker needed to run the spread. Running backs and former quarterbacks have been turned into receivers to fill the positions, but the spread is about running the ball, as well. Fortunately, Quinton Smith is one of the league's most explosive backs.

The defense has experience, but not a whole bunch of talent. Getting into the backfield will be job one after struggling to generate sacks and tackles for loss despite having the talents of all-star John Syptak up front. He's gone, and now the defense has to use its speed and quickness to be more disruptive.

No, Rice isn't going to win the Conference USA title this season, and it's probably not even going to crack the three win mark. It'll be about improving from wee to week and getting everything in place for the future.

The Schedule: It's not like Rice needs more problems, but it has three, three game road stretches that would test any team. The UCF, UTEP and Tulsa tilt should especially try the team's toughness, but on the plus side, the season ends with home games against East Carolina and SMU. The non-conference schedule has a painful three game stretch of at UCLA, Texas and at Florida State before going to Army for what has to be a must-win. Even the home opener isn't really a true home game playing in-town Houston.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Quinton Smith. The team's best running back last season is a big play threat and will be the main man in the offense until the passing game starts to click. He's deadly when he gets a little room to run, so the idea will be to get the ball to him on the move as much as possible.

Best Defensive Player: Senior S Chad Price. Part safety and part linebacker, Price joins Andray Downs to give Rice one of Conference USA's most experienced safety pairs. Price is great at getting into the backfield and is a sure tackler, but he has to starting picking off passes.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Chase Clement. The new spread offense won't work unless Clement is a steady decision maker and improves his passing. He struggled as a freshman finishing with a passer rating of 85.8 and only completed 43% of his throws. With the running skills and the smarts to run the attack, he should turn out to be a great fit ... eventually.

The season will be a success if ... Rice comes up with three wins. It came close to beating UCF and UTEP over the second half of last season and it beat Tulane, but it's going to take big upsets to come close to winning more than a few games. It'll be a shock if the Owls are favored in any game this year.

Key game: Nov. 25 vs. SMU. The new coaching staff is going to need at least a year to get everything in place and for the team to figure out what it's doing. No one will say it's all about playing for the future, but the season finale against SMU will be important to see where the team is at and what needs working on for 2007.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Fumbles: Rice 34, lost 16 - Opponents 11, lost 5
- Penalties: Opponents 91 for 860 yards - Rice 54 for 486 yards
- Third down conversions: Opponents 65 of 138 (47%) - Rice 63 of 169 ((34%)

The Last Time Rice…
…played in a bowl game…1961 (Bluebonnet Bowl vs. Kansas)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…1995 (UNLV)
…was shutout…2000 (TCU)
…scored 50 points…2004 (San Jose State)
…went undefeated…never
…won a conference title…1994 (share, SWC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1976 (Tommy Kramer)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Ed Bailey)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…never
…had a first-round draft choice…1980 (RB Earl Cooper)

Related Stories
Rice Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Rice Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Rice Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

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