Game 6: The Rice Owls vs. the UTEP Miners (October 9, 2010)
Four of UTEP's first six games will be at the friendly confines of the Sun Bowl. After a short trip up to Albuquerque to take on the New Mexico Lobos, the Miners return home to take on David Bailiff's Rice Owls. Last season, the Owls were one of the worst teams in the nation, statistically, on offense and defense. Yet, the Owls managed to beat UTEP 30-29 in Houston. I don't want to revisit that game. I don't think anyone does. I will say that Rice should be better in 2010 than they were last year, and UTEP knows that they Owls can beat them, even at the Sun Bowl.
Why is Rice better? Hate to beat a dead horse but Rice might have one of the 3-4 most exciting players in the entire conference next season in running back and Michigan transfer Sam McGuffie. Also, the Owls return 18 starters (9/9). The Owls are still in the midst of a quarterback battle between returning starter Nick Fanuzzi and incoming players Taylor Cook and Taylor McHargue. Fanuzzi transferred to Rice from Alabama while Cook transferred to Rice from Miami. McHargue, amazingly, actually signed with Rice.
On defense, the Owls are led by DT Scott Solomon and DE. Cheta Ozougwu. The Owls finished in the bottom half of Conference USA in every notable statistical category. The Owls finished 117th in the country, out of 120 FBS schools, in total defense and dead last in scoring defense.
Rice's schedule isn't going to help them either. Before playing the Miners in El Paso, the Owls will have already faced the Texas Longhorns, Northwestern Wildcats, Baylor Bears, and SMU Mustangs. No need to state the obvious and say that Rice has a much more difficult early season schedule than the Miners.
For more on the 2010 Rice Owls, check out Miner Rush's Rice Preview: Sam's Town.
So, who you got?