Friday night will mark the end of an uneventful non-conference slate for the Baylor Bears. Winning their first two contests by an average of 37.5 points per game has left many still waiting to see what the 2016 Bears truly have to offer. Unfortunately this weekend will not be very telling.
The Rice Owls have started the season 0-2 despite hanging with Army last weekend before ultimately losing 31-14. Rice lost this game last season to the tune of 70-17 and does not look to be much improved so far this season.
On paper this does not look to be a contest, but let’s see if there are any interesting side stories in this game.
Baylor at Rice
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Baylor -30
Three Things to Watch
1. Has Baylor become a run-first offense?
Through their first two games the Bears had have more rushing yards than passing. While Seth Russell has looked good through the first two weeks it has been the running back-by-committee approach that has caught everyone’s eye. No single tailback for the Bears has yet to surpass 100 rushing yards in a game. Look for Shock Linwood and Terence Williams to share the load in the backfield again this Friday.
2. Can Rice’s offense get on track?
So far this season the Owls have not had a tailback rush for 100 yards. I’m not talking per game, I am talking for the season. After two games the Owls' leading rusher has 93 total yards, albeit on 17 carries.
The passing game has been just as unimpressive, averaging only 191.5 yards per game. What is most troubling for Rice is that the leader in both categories is redshirt senior QB Tyler Stehling. If Rice is to get any type of sustainable offense going someone else is going to have to step up, especially against Baylor, which currently boasts the best defense (statistically speaking) in the Big 12.
3. Will playing at home make a difference for Rice?
The Owls have struggled out of the gate this season, giving up 38.5 points and close to 600 yards per game on defense. However, the Owls have yet to play at home. While it may very well not make a difference, three of the Owls' five wins did come at home last season.
There is always something to be said for home-field advantage.
Baylor will end its non-conference slate 3-0, there is no doubt about that. This game may not be as out of hand as last season’s contest simply because the Bears have taken on a more of run-oriented offensive approach.
Unfortunately for Rice, its inability to find a playmaker outside of its quarterback will spell doom for the Owls early in this game. Baylor will shut down Tyler Stehling and the rout will be on.
Prediction: Baylor 56, Rice 10
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.