The summer months are officially here and that means the kickoff for Notre Dame football is creeping ever closer.
To celebrate, I’m going to start a weekly preview of each of our opponents. After all, during the season, my energy will be devoted to making fun of our opponents in the Friday Roundup, so the least I can do is give each team some legitimate analysis.
First up, the Rice Owls.
Vitals[table “” not found /]
Offense[table “” not found /]
Rice’s offense is easily the biggest question mark heading into the 2014 season. The run-first spread offense losses it’s top two rushers, one of whom happened to be their starting QB last season, Taylor McHargue.
So when Driphus Jackson takes over for the Owls in 2014, the offense that help propel Rice to a Conference USA title likely won’t be what it once was; however, Jackson still has some offensive weapons at his disposal.
Sophomore running backs Jawon Davis and Darik Dillard put in some solid work in 2013 as backups, having 5.0 and 4.8 yards/carry respectively. The duo combined for 872 yards and 6 TDs — not too bad for a couple of backups.
Wide receivers Jordan Taylor and Dennis Parks, Rice’s top receivers, will return, giving Jackson two great targets to work with should the career 51.8% passer be able to hit them.
Defense[table “” not found /]
At first glance, the Rice defense looks pretty stout, especially in the secondary which returns three starters. However, you have to consider the competition that Rice played for most of the season, which is part of the reason that I am including the F/+ ranking.
If you want to read how it is derived, read this. If you want a tl;dr, just know that the ranking adjusts for competition faced. Thus, the seemingly great statistics and rankings get brought down to earth with a Defense F/+ rank of 75 against a schedule that was ranked 98 by Sagarin.
In 2013, when Rice faced stronger teams and more potent offenses, they didn’t fare very well at all. In their four losses, the defense coughed up an average of 441.5 yards per game. Losses to Texas A&M and Mississippi State were particularly bad as the defense gave up 52 and 44 points respectively.
Simply put, better teams have had no issue at all moving the ball against Rice.
What to Expect
This is certainly a very winnable game for the Irish. It should be a great opportunity for Everett Golson to continue to knock off any remaining rust against a what should be a sub-par defense.
On the other side of the ball, this will be a very interesting debut for Brian VanGorder’s defense. While the Irish shouldn’t have too many issues, we all have the “ND makes a new QB famous for one game” stuck in the back of our minds. Here’s hoping that is a thing of the past.
Study Your Enemy
I’m going to link opposing blogs in this section, but I couldn’t really find any and I’m going to refrain from the easy nerd jokes until the eventual Roundup post.
Instead, here’s a nice selection of Rice previews: