2022 Rice Owls Preview

by Matt Fargo

Rice Owls

2021-22 Season Record 4-8 (3-5 C-USA West) - 3-9-0 ATS - 9-3-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 8
Defense - 7

Overview

Rice has not had a winning season since 2014 which was its third straight under head coach David Bailiff and it was also the first time in program history that it went to three straight bowl games. Unfortunately, he could not keep the momentum rolling as he went 9-27 over the next three seasons before he was replaced by Mike Bloomgren who was the offensive coordinator at Stanford for five seasons. It has not been a good start as he is 11-31 in four years and while last year was the best of the bunch with a 4-8 record, it was a bad 4-8 with the three FBS wins coming by six points or less and six of the losses coming by double-digits. The seat is officially hot for Bloomgren who has seen increased production by the offense in each of the last three years but the defense took a nosedive last season and pieces are here to improve and a bowl game is imperative for job security.

Offense

Even though the offense had its best season since 2018, it was still not good as the Owls were No. 96 in total offense and No. 106 in scoring offense and it did not help having to play Arkansas, Houston and Texas in their first three games where they managed a total of 24 points. The good news is that the second half of the season was a lot better as they averaged 27 ppg over their final six games and can carry that positive momentum into this season. The quarterback situation was a mess as four different players had at least 20 passing attempts and they finished with a 16:15 TD:INT ratio. The likely starter is Wiley Green who has seen limited action but has been in the system for five years. Leading rusher Ali Broussard returns but the leading receiver is gone and transfers will be key there. The offensive line has three starters back and needs to be better in run blocking.

Defense

The defense was lit up on too many occasions and ended up finishing No. 108 overall and No. 121 in points allowed and this was with 10 returning starters so visions were high. Instead they allowed 93 more ypg than the previous season and things were so bad that those starters were yanked numerous times which means a lot of younger players got some valuable time which will help out this year. The defensive line lost its best player but this will still be the strength of the defense that will be led on one end by Ikenna Enechukwu who had 49 tackles and tied for sacks leader with 4.5. On the other side is Trey Schuman who has 39 tackles and three sacks. The linebacking corps took the big hit with the two main guys transferring out but the four projected starters have great experience. Safety Gabe Taylor will anchor the secondary after leading the team with 44 solo tackles but the corners are young. 

2022 Season Outlook

Rice is the Duke further out west as it is one of the best learning institutions in the country which makes it tough to get to recruits as evidenced by their No. 119 recruiting class in 2022. The future is now with 11 projected starters being sophomores which means a successful season this year can springboard the Owls for the next couple years into something really good. But they cannot look ahead and the start is not easy with two nonconference games at USC and Houston sandwiched around a pair of home games against McNeese St. and Louisiana-Lafayette. The C-USA schedule is not horrible as three of the tougher games are at home against UAB, UTEP and UTSA with the other big test on the road at Western Kentucky. The O/U win total is set at 3.5 and that is a very gettable number if it can produce a .500 record at home because there are stealable wins on the road. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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