The New York Post delivers the Green Wave as an underdog- getting three points in this tilt with winless Rice. A brisk slap in the face of the joy of Tulane’s surprise upset win over pretty okay UTEP.
The 0-9 mark that Rice sports is not deceptive- they’re pretty bad, in steep decline after last year’s nifty run. The Owls’ defense was never great shakes- but they had the lethal C-USA style quarterback in Chase Clement. Replacing him has been hard- and Rice cannot generate the five TDs a game needed to win in this League.
Of course, that is the Tulane song and dance too- until Ryan Griffin woke up last week. But Rice woke up too, narrowly losing to SMU, when their sophomore quarterback got better quick. Nick Fanuzzi, the one time big Alabama Crimson Tide recruit, threw three TDs.
I’m sure that is how Vegas sees this: two teams that have the exact same sort of credible story. That story: finally, after a goodly part of the season, the right quarterback is playing and getting better, improving team-wide prospects in a big number League. Call it a toss up- give Rice a field goal for being at home.
Yes, Rice does not have three wins- but they had no Army/McNeese level softies. Frankly, their out of conference schedule could be the best in the country: three BCS teams and Navy. And I’m not sure, the actual victory aside, their effort last week versus SMU was any worse than Tulane’s verve against UTEP. The line seems very fair.
Nevertheless, I’m taking Tulane +3 over Rice.
I’ll be the first to say it; Andre Anderson has had a disappointing season- from a potential all C-USA player to a guy who is in the bottom half of the League rushing. But here he has a chance to dominate his opponent. Rice can’t score because Rice can’t rush the football (an astonishing 2.8 yards an attempt). Until last week, the Owls' red zone offense really sputtered as they are very one dimensional down at the goal line.
Stopping the run is always the scary thing for the Tulane defense. That ought not be a problem Saturday- and if Andre can get going, this might be a day where Rice struggles to keep Ryan Griffin and company off the field- and in a pretty even tilt, Tulane would enjoy a real sustained advantage.
And I like the intangibles. I was impressed by the Wave’s tight road game at Army earlier in the year- so I don’t think being away from home means much here. Their special teams are as bad as Tulane’s version- no secret advantage there.
Just like last week, I think this game is pretty darn close- would not be surprised if either team won. But Tulane has a better story at running back and I get three points for picking Tulane. So we will try to get to 8-2 ATS with the Green Wave.