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Baylor vs. Rice -- Preview/Prediction Thread

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Baylor finishes its 2016 non-conference slate with a matchup against an old Southwest Conference foe: the Rice Owls. Will the Bears roll again, or will Rice have the last hoot?

at
21/19 BAYLOR (2-0) at Rice (0-2)
Sept. 16, 2016 | 7 p.m. CT
Houston, Texas | Rice Stadium (47,000)

TV: ESPN
Watch | Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes

OPPONENT: Rice Owls
ODB GAME HUB:
Baylor Bears vs. Rice Owls 2016
BAYLORBEARS.COM PREVIEW: Right here.
PREVIEW PODCAST: Podcast #102
ROLL CALL: STILL TO COME
SB NATION BLOG: Underdog Dynasty
SPREAD: Baylor –31 (Open: Baylor –27.5)
TV COVERAGE: ESPN, 7 p.m. CDT (FRIDAY)
WEATHER FORECAST: Sunny, high of 88 with 50% chance of rain during the day, tapering off into the evening (Wunderground puts temp at 84° at gametime).

BAYLOR UNIFORMS: White/white/black per Mr. Barlow on the Twitters.

SBNation.com Rice Preview
Bears vs Owls coverage

Injury News:

NB Travon Blanchard (Knee) -- Cleared to return and should probably be eased back into the lineup this week against the Owls.  Considering Patrick Levels leads the team in tackles through 2 games and has played extremely well, Baylor has a relatively good problem of two good players at the same position.  Watch for the Bears to try to get both onto the field at the same time, if possible.

WR Pooh Stricklin (Shoulder) -- Sounds like he's going to play this week, but it's not certain at this point.

CB Ryan Reid (Ankle) -- Probably will not play this week as he recovers for Big 12 play.

Advanced Stats:

As I sat down today in my hotel in Orlando planning to do a more fulsome analysis of the advanced statistics, I realized that both FEI and S&P+, the two measures from which F/+ is born, and their various subparts only consider games against FBS appointments.  That means our scores so far are composed entirely of the SMU game and preseason projections, which still play an inordinate role in creating a very unstable result. That's not very helpful to cogent prognostication. Even still, the numbers aren't exactly bad for Baylor, all things considered, and a brief overview could be useful:

Category

Baylor (2-0)

Rice (0-2)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 15 (32.6%)
122 (-44.5%)
BAYLOR
Overall FEI Rk 24 (.122)
123 (-.200)
BAYLOR
Overall S&P+ Rk 14 (15.5)
120 (-14.7)
BAYLOR
Field Position Advantage ---
---
---

Yeah ... Rice is one of the worst teams in the country according to the advanced stats and, from what I've read, just about everything else.

One thing I want to point out before we go any further is what I'm calling the Grobe Effect.  Per S&P+'s special teams rankings -- and I want to stress again the very limited sample size we're dealing with here -- Baylor has the #13 special teams in the country at this point.  13!  I don't have stats for that from last year, but I can guarantee you we wouldn't be in the same world.

THOUGHTS ON THE GAME:

So, as I'm sure everyone expected going into this season, we have a little uncertainty on the offensive side and the defense may have won the game last week against SMU by limiting them to field goals in the first half and allowing the offense to break it wide open.  This week, hopefully, they won't need to with the offense facing a Rice defense that is one of the worst in the country.  Baylor will look to capitalize against that defense and build some momentum going into Big 12 play, while also resting certain players (if possible) and working in others to gain experience.

What I'll Be Watching:

  • Fast Start -- This makes the third game in a row that I'll list "Fast Start" among my things to watch, and unfortunately, it's probably more warranted now than before after Baylor scored just 6 points in the first half against SMU. 
  • Seth Russell -- I've made a lot of the fact that last week's game was not Seth's best as a starter for Baylor.  He threw 2 INTs, one of which was fairly horrific, and never seemed "on" against SMU.  He's said all the right things in the aftermath and has a ton of weapons around him.  How he responds this week will tell us a lot about his season going forward.
  • Offensive Line -- Let's be honest -- one of the reasons we had so many problems early against SMU is that our offensive line had serious issues handling SMU's run blitzes.  That's something that needs to get cleaned up quickly, and considering that film is now out there, this week should give us a glimpse of the progress, if any, made. 
  • Running Game -- This is somewhat of a repeat of the above, since everything starts on the offensive line, and somewhat not.  After being limited last week by injury and ineffectiveness, Shock Linwood should return tomorrow night in pursuit of the Baylor career rushing record.  I hope he gets it on national TV, partly because it will mean we're running the ball well, and partly so that he gets the credit he deserves as Baylor's workhorse over the last few seasons.
  • Special Teams -- Tony Nicholson has been a revelation at punt returner this season with two TDs called back for penalties already.  He's going to get at least one, and I would love it to be tomorrow.

My Prediction:


Rice is pretty terrible, and Baylor should handle them fairly easily.  The Bears will put up a ton of points and pull away early.

Baylor 59, Rice 13.