2006 New Orleans Bowl - Rice vs. Troy

Posted Dec 8, 2006

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 22 - Rice vs. Troy

Rice (7-5) vs. Troy (7-5)

Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ESPN2

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New Orleans Bowl Player Profile: Rice WR Jarett Dillard, team bowl history and more

In a million years did you ever think you'd have any interest in a battle of Troy vs. Rice?

If this game was played on a normal college football Saturday, you'd blow it off without a second thought, but that's the beauty of bowl games. If you're a fan who enjoys all aspect of the game's landscape, this is your chance to kick back on a Friday night and watch one of the best stories in college football gets its shot on the national stage against a champion of a conference that's trying to prove it's more than just a doormat for for the rest of D-I.

National Rankings
Troy Rice
Total Offense
85th  315.25 ypg 58th  345.17 ypg
Total Defense
71st  344.42 ypg 113th  417.67 ypg
Scoring Offense
81st  21.25 ppg 37th  27.75 ppg
Scoring Defense
60th  22.67 ppg 110th  32.58 ppg
Run Offense
70th  126.92 ypg 55th  138.67 ypg
Run Defense
60th  137.08 ypg 114th  191.17 ypg
Pass Offense
71st  188.33 ypg 51st  206.5 ypg
Pass Defense
70  207.33 ypg 91st  226.5 ypg
Turnover Margin
107th  -0.83  7  1.00
Alabama St W 38-0
at Florida St L 24-17
at G
a Tech L 35-20
at Nebraska L 56-0
at UAB L 21-3
UL Monroe W 24-19
North Texas W 14-6
UL Laf W 42-28
at Fla Atlan W 24-17
Arkansas St L 33-26
at MTSU W 21-20
at FIU W 26-13
Houston L 31-30
at UCLA L 26-16
Texas L 52-7
at Florida St L 55-7
at Army W 48-14
at Tulane L 38-24
UAB W 34-33
at UCF W 40-29
at UTEP W 37-31
at Tulsa W 41-38 2OT
E Carolina W 18-17
SMU W 31-27
Position Ratings
relative to each other
T 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 3
3.5 RBs 4
4 Receivers 4
3 O Line 2.5
3 D Line 2.5
3 Linebackers 3
3 Secondary 3
3.5 Spec Teams 3.5
3.5 Coaching 4.5

Wake Forest was the best rags-to-riches story of the year, but Rice was a close second as first-year head coach Todd Graham took the apparent unwinnable program and cranked out a seven-win season with a thrilling six-game winning streak to close things out. This isn't the option running, no defense Rice you're used to; this is the balanced attack, no defense Rice that wins games by coming through with every big play and not making mistakes.

Troy is a stunning guest to the party beating Middle Tennessee, who appeared to be a lock for a trip to New Orleans, 21-20 in a last-minute shocker. After beating a winless FIU team 26-13, the Trojans claimed their first Sun Belt title and second bowl game in three years. An eight-win season would mark the highest total in the brief six-year history of the team's D-I existence.

Few teams have played closer games throughout the season than these two with Troy playing six games decided by eight points or fewer and Rice winning their final four games of the year by a grand total of 14 points. Neither team is likely to blowout the other, and there's no question the effort will be there for a full sixty minutes from both sides. Just watch how many other bowls will have at least one team that mentally doesn't show up.

Beyond everything else, Rice is just a fun team to watch with a defense you and ten friends could run on and several exciting offensive playmakers.

Fine, so you're not sold that this is a game you have to cancel date night at Applebee's for. After all, this might be the most obscure matchup of teams outside of the New Mexico Bowl where San Jose State is playing New Mexico, but while neither program will be battling for the BCS in yours or anyone's lifetime, they have the potential to play a whale of a game.

Players to watch: Alright All-America voters, how many of you actually watched Rice WR Jarett Dillard play this season after September and how many of you just went off the numbers and the nice story? Be honest. Dillard really is worthy of the post-season consideration finishing the year with a whopping 20 touchdowns scoring at least one in every game and cranking out three against Army, UAB, Tulsa and SMU. One of the few players on the team that could've gone almost anywhere, Dillard has been the biggest beneficiary of the new coaching staff's offense. He can do it all with great short range route running ability to home-run deep threat speed.

While Dillard has been unstoppable through the air, senior RB Quinton Smith has been a steadying force on the ground with 1,092 yards and ten rushing touchdowns. Durability was an issue throughout his career, but he stayed healthy and became the focal point of the offense, even more so than Dillard, used both for his excellent pass-catching hands as well as his slashing running.

For Troy, the game hinges on the play of QB Omar Haugabook. While he's been a big upgrade from past Trojan quarterbacks, he's been maddeningly inconsistent throwing the ball all season long. He bombed away over the last three weeks of the Sun Belt season before throwing for a mere 53 yards on FIU. Even when the passing game isn't going, he has the legs to keep the chains moving with 111 yards last week against the Golden Panthers. The more efficient he is, the better chance Troy has of pulling this off.

Troy will win if... the ground game gets going early, doesn't slow down, and keeps working for a full four quarters. The Trojans can't win any sort of a shootout, so it has to control the time of possession and keep Haugabook from having to force throws. RB Kenny Cattouse has been fantastic over the second half of the season and needs to be more of a workhorse than he's ever been to take advantage of the nation's 114th best run defense. The Owls give up 191 rushing yards per game.

Rice will win if... it doesn't screw up. Rice has made a living off of holding on to the ball giving up just 16 turnovers on the year while Troy has turned it over a whopping 30 times. The Trojan defense isn't the killer of years past and, while aggressive, isn't good at forcing mistakes. Rice has to avoid the temptation of throwing the knockout punch early by forcing the ball to Dillard, and there can't be the three turnover performance like there was in the season final against SMU. If the two teams play evenly, Rice should be able to win without a problem.

What will happen: The Trojans simply don't have the offense to keep up with the above-average Rice attack. It'll be close for a half, and then Dillard and/or Smith will take over with Troy not having much of an answer. Don't expect the Owls to pull away with Cattouse a near-lock to run for 100 yards and the Trojan receivers coming up with a few big plays to stay alive. Troy will turn it over three times, Rice will give it away once, and that will be the difference.

Line: Rice -7 ... CFN Prediction:
Rice 31 ... Troy 20

New Orleans Bowl Player Profile: Rice WR Jarett Dillard, team bowl history and more