Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rice is Bad Trouble

From the onset of summer, I have had a real bad feeling about this weekend’s tilt with the Rice Owls. Earlier in the week, I was shocked to open the New York Post and find Tulane -2.5 over the Owls. Gosh, one place Tulane gets respect is Vegas: -20 over Army, now a field goal favorite over a team that actually wins conference games?

It isn’t so much that Rice is that much better than Tulane- but rather, this is just a horrid match-up. I mean, Tulane is pretty okay on defense, but Rice can really, really score the ball. So does Green Wave competence really matter here? The Owls are the lights out, score a ton C-USA offense led by a ruthless, low risk high return, mobile machine at quarterback: Chase Clement (27TDs, 5 INT). The Owls scored 45 on Southern Miss last week. They scored 77 versus North Texas, 42 versus Memphis, 56 against SMU. And Rice figures to go for a bunch here.

Sure, by all accounts, the Owl defense is just terrible. And I imagine Tulane will rush the ball at will and could certainly score north of 30. But, with the injuries at wide out and the erratic play from the quarterback position, I’m not sure Kevin Moore will be able to throw it consistently, all four quarters, every possession, like Rice will.

Scarred by last year’s Matt Forte experiment, my rule of thumb in C-USA is that a good running team simply cannot keep up with a good passing team. I can see Tulane defending Rice pretty well, but the Owls still scoring 35+ points. And it is hard to game plan five-six TDs when you are a “run first” offense. To wit, you sacrifice a lot of snaps to get 180 yards of rushing offense- and that sort of yardage per snap total just doesn’t translate to lots of points- or at least not at the rate that devoting a lot of snaps to 400 yards passing does.

No matter how bad the defense you face, it is hard to get to 40 unless you both throw the football efficiently and throw it a lot. Frankly, I don’t think the Wave can throw it efficiently and would prefer to run it a lot than throw it. And the latter fact hurts the Wave here. It is a bad match up where the Wave’s singular strength doesn’t matter as much as most Saturdays.

The Wave probably does gain from the week off- but playing inside on the Dome’s fast track, perfect climate really helps the Owls’ offense. Call the intangibles a wash.

Consequently, I think this game is trouble. Tulane could play well, but probably can’t match the relentless offensive pressure Rice brings each weekend. So we’ll try to raise the ATS mark to 5-2 by taking the points and the underdog Owls.

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