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Baylor vs. Rice Preview/Prediction Thread

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Baylor finishes its 2015 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?

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
vs.
5/4 BAYLOR (2–0) vs. NR/NR Rice (2–1)
Sept. 26, 2015 | 2 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,140)

TV: FSN
Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes | Tickets

OPPONENT: Rice Owls
ODB GAME HUB:
Baylor Bears vs. Rice Owls 2015
MEET THE PRESS:
Baylor vs. Rice
FIRST LOOK: Baylor vs. Rice
PREVIEW PODCAST: Owl Poaching
ROLL CALL: Baylor vs. Rice
SB NATION BLOG: Underdog Dynasty, at right
SPREAD: Baylor –34.5 (Open: Baylor –33)
TV COVERAGE: FSSW, 2 p.m. CDT
WEATHER FORECAST: Sunny, high of 93 with 5–10mph winds from NE, 3% chance of rain (Wunderground puts temp at 91° at gametime)


That's a little hotter than many expected, so I hope everyone takes a cue from the great Amy Pagitt and stays well hydrated. Because as Amy always says ... (put it in the comments)

BAYLOR UNIFORMS: Traditional Gold/Green/Gold! Purists rejoice!

SBNation.com Rice Preview
baylorbears.com Preview
Bears vs. Owls Coverage

Injury/Suspension News:

On the injury front, I believe the plan is for LB Taylor Young to return for this game.  On the suspension front, we haven't heard anything yet, but it's still relatively early in the day.  I'll go ahead and pre-write part of my post for later:

As part of our weekly Friday news dump, Baylor has announced that [insert player, coach, administrator, mascot] has been suspended from tonight's game for [insert recruiting/undisclosed team rules violation, connection with international crime syndicate, results of investigation into kidnapping of Lindbergh baby]. We expect that [see above]'s absence will affect in the following ways:

And now I'm ready should just about anything come down the pike.

Advanced Stats:

So last night, I started writing a full-blown advanced stats preview for tomorrow's game.  I really did.  But then 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, which have fallen, are composed entirely of the SMU game.  And, because we're still so early in the season, preseason projections still play a major role.  That's not very helpful to cogent prognostication.  But for those of you who just can't do without for another week (when we should have more information and preseason projections will be even less of a factor, if at all):

Category

Baylor(2-0)

Rice (2-1)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 13 (44.1%)
107 (-31.1%)
BAYLOR
Overall FEI Rk 4 (..226)
104 (-.130)
BAYLOR
Overall S&P+ Rk 18 (15.8)
108 (-11.6)
BAYLOR
Field Position Advantage ---
---
---

A titanic matchup of evenly matched teams, this is not.  Though S&P+ doesn't love Baylor as much as FEI, both still have Baylor as a huge favorite in this game.

Players to Watch (for Rice):

QB Driphus Jackson -- He's a QB that can run, meaning he's an immediate threat to our defense (at least so far this year). Peter summed things up pretty well earlier this week in the First Look.  Regarding Jackson:

The stats indicate that while he’s not exactly a dynamic threat on the ground, he can threaten on the ground if you let him get to the perimeter, something Baylor’s struggled with at points in this early season. If they can bottle him up and seal off the perimeter they may be in good shape. Given his mobility he can tend to give up more sacks, so it will be interesting to see how the defense prepares for him. At 7.3 yards per attempt and over 63% completion percentage, he’s got a decent arm.

I'd go a little further and say Jackson has a pretty good arm, considering he's thrown for over 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in his Rice career, but those are about what we expect from a Baylor QB in a given season, so... just check out his highlight video from last season.

Anyway, Jackson is the biggest problem Baylor's defense will face tomorrow.  He's a senior that has been very productive in this offense for four years now, and he'll take what he can get. So far, he's run between 6 (season-low vs. UNT) and 13 (Wagner) times in each game, and I'm guessing that he'll be much closer to 13, if not above it, tomorrow. Rice runs a lot of zone blocking schemes and QB reads that are actually pretty similar to ours, so it will be extremely important for our defensive lineman and linebackers to know their jobs and stick to them in order to bottle it up.

WR Dennis Parks -- With nearly 3x as many catches and yards as the next-highest Owl, the 6-2, 200-pound Parks is the man you need to know on the outside.  He wears #4, like our Jay Lee, and he should be covered by #4, Xavien Howard.  He has 16 catches for 240 yards and 2 TDs on the season, leading the Owls in every category.  If any of Rice's WRs are going to beat us for long plays, it's probably Parks.

RBs Samuel Stewart / Darik Dillard / Austin Walter -- So far this season, Rice has employed what is basically a running back-by-committee approach with Stewart (freshman), Dillard (junior), and Walter (freshman).  Stewart has the most carries by a decent amount at 38, but all three have more than 24 and are between 160-200 yards for the season.  These three are numbers 24, 1, and 27, respectively.

S J.T. Ibe -- It's never great when a safety leads your team in tackles, but such is life for the Rice Owls so far this year.  Ibe's lead in that category isn't huge by any stretch (14 vs. 13 for the next-highest), but he's the leader.  Behind him is the next guy we probably need to know about...

DE Brian Womac --  If you're a fan of the early 2000s Arlington Colts and thinking you're having flashbacks, don't!  This is Womac, not Womack, and he's a redshirt sophomore DE for the Owls.  So far this season, Womac has a very strong 7 (!!) tackles for loss in 3 games, as well as one sack.  I can't tell from anything Rice puts out whether they anchor their DEs to one particular side or the other, so we'll find out about that together.

What I'll Be Watching For:

Taylor Young's Return! Baylor got Shawn Oakman back last week against Lamar, and the senior DE was enough of a force that the Cardinals rarely even ran his direction.  Should Young return as expected (and that's still an open question, don't get me wrong), I don't think he'll have that kind of impact simply because you can't really run away from linebackers the same way, but he's a big piece of Baylor's defense.

The Running Game: I said a week ago that I wanted to see 40+ carries for the Baylor RBs, and we got 51.  That's awesome.  This week, I want to see Seth Russell worked more into the game plan there, because I honestly do think that's going to be a part of the offense we'll need in conference play.

Who Starts at CS? Will it be Terrell Burt back again, or will we see Chance Waz?  That's the question on everyone's mind with the defense, and we just don't know.

Where are the Sacks? The dirty little secret of Baylor's first two games is that we amassed a grand total of 4 sacks, and only 2 of those came from our defensive linemen.  That's not enough.  Jackson's elusiveness could make it difficult to rectify those stats in this particular game, but we need to get that going.

My Prediction:

If you listened to this week's podcast, you already know that I'm taking Baylor and the spread because I think this is the week the Bears get their groove (or edge, if you prefer) back.  I really like the matchup of our DL against their OL, and I think that the Lamar game gave the coaching staff plenty to talk about with Seth Russell and company in the film room.

Individual Predictions:

  • Seth Russell -- 25/35 for 330 yards and 4 TDs, 0 INTs.
  • Corey Coleman -- 7 catches for 155 yards and 2 TDs
  • Shock Linwood -- 15 carries for 120 yards, 2 TDs.
  • Shawn Oakman -- 8 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack

Somehow, I think I managed to build Rice up in my mind going into this week as significantly better than our previous opponents, particularly SMU.  Considering how well SMU has played against both us and TCU, I don't think that's true anymore.  Instead, they're probably about equal in terms of overall talent, and similar in what they'll try to do to our defense.  The keys for this game are simple: stop the run on defense, establish the run on offense, and take advantage when we can of what has been a very porous Rice defensive secondary so far this year.

Two games into this season, I'm a grand total of 3 points off of Baylor's total scoring output (we don't need to talk about the defensive side on that...), and I'm going to try to keep that success going this week.

Final Score: Baylor 63, Rice 27.

Give me your predictions in the comments and vote in the poll!