We're so giddy to write about actual football again we're posting this key to the game two days early. FOOTBALL IS A COMING!
In Australia. Whatever.
Rice enters their opener with the Stanford Cardinal down under in Sydney as a prohibitive underdog. We like to think of it as an opportunity to excel. Smart kids love that shit.
So here are our keys to a Rice upset on par with McGregor knocking out Mayweather.
It won't matter as much against Stanford, a team that thrives on grinding opponents to dust, but Rice has to protect its defense by keeping the ball away from Stanford's offense. Out Stanford, Stanford you say? Sort of, Rice was the worst team in college football at giving up explosive plays on defense last season. Even though Stanford isn't known for being particular explosive, these are PAC 12, top 15 caliber athletes and Rice can't match those. What Rice can do is use their talented offensive line to push try and push the Cardinal around, move the chains and keep the ball, shorten the game and hope for the best.
Stewart & Walter & Esupka & Ellerbe
Run the dang ball! Running the ball goes hand in hand with slowing the game with taking the air out of the ball. The most talented, perhaps deepest group on the roster are the running backs. Samuel Stewart is the closest player the Owls have to a game breaker. Austin Walter is a good change of pace. Emmanuel Esupka is a 235-pound thumper, and Nashon Ellerbe gives the Owls an option in the return game and out of the backfield. Rice needs to ride these horses and the running ability of Sam Glaesmann.
Make Keller Chryst Make Plays & Make Him Uncomfortable
Keller Chryst is the unquestioned leader of Stanford's offense, but he's also coming back from a knee injury suffered in the bowl game. He's back but barely. David Shaw and company took it easy on him during camp. Rice's new 3-4, multiple defense needs to make life interesting for Chryst to test out a knee that is "miracle of modern medicine." Chryst doesn't win games on his own, no Stanford quarterback does. If Stanford can run the football, it's a long day for the Owls. If Rice can force Stanford to play behind the chains and put the game more in Chyst's hands, they have a shot.
Turnovers and Special Teams
Upsets don't happen by accident, they a predicated on tilting the edge in the underdog's favor. For Rice on Saturday night that means they'll need to come up with some combination of turnovers and special teams plays. The Owls aren't talented enough to beat the Cardinal straight up, but with a blocked punt or a couple of picks, and they can make things interesting.
Get Sam Glaesmann Moving
The Owls named Sam Glaesmann, a redshirt sophomore from Waco Midway, their starter for the opener. It's a huge ask for a player who hasn't taken a college snap. Glaesmann is the most natural athlete in the Owl quarterback room, and he's good at throwing on the run. The Owls would do well to get Glaesmann out of the pocket where he can create with his legs and his arm. By doing so, they'll give Stanford something else to defend.