The Rice Owls, coming off of a 4-8 record and 111th ranked total defense in 2011, return 5 starters on defense. The Rice defense struggled stopping both the run and the pass, ranking 88th against the run and 112th against the pass. Where they didn’t struggle, however, was creating turnovers. Led by cornerback Bryce Callahan, who led all freshman in the country with 6 interceptions, the Owls look to continue to be opportunistic in taking the ball away. The Rice defense also has no lack for speed and will actually be one of the few teams who have the team speed to keep up with the Bruins. Speed doesn’t always equal success though, and with only one senior with starting experience, the Owls improvement may be minimal in 2012.
The key to the Bruins on Thursday(along with every other game) is taking care of the ball. If Hundley can play a clean game, his numbers will be off the chart. Jonathan Franklin will especially be active as Mazzone will ease Hundley into the season and also won’t show a lot to Nebraska. With this responsibility, Franklin, a senior, will be trusted to protect the ball better than he has in the past. Jonathan has repeatedly mentioned that he is working to cure his fumble problems, but we heard that last offseason, as well. If he does hold onto the rock, the coaches will ride him all game and all season. If given enough carries, expect a huge game(150+ yds, 2 TD’s).
After all of spring and all of camp, through the dog days of summer, the heat in San Berdoo, the fights, the battles, the competition and the improvement, it’s finally here. Game week.