EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 20th in a series of previews of Marshall and West Virginia football opponents.
Date with Marshall: Saturday, Nov. 15, time TBA, Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Net (12-day window)
Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,227, AstroTurf GameDay Grass MTO), Huntington
Series: Marshall leads series 3-2
Last meeting: Rice 41, Marshall 24, C-USA championship game, Dec. 7, 2013 at Houston
Coach: David Bailiff (eighth year at Rice, 40-48; 11th year overall, 61-63)
Checking them out
If Marshall players don’t come out with a monster chip on their shoulders for this one, check their pulse. The Thundering Herd was outclassed by the veteran Owls in the Conference USA championship game, a result not expected by anybody outside the Rice locker room.
“Veteran” is the operative word here, and does not apply as much to this Rice team. For example, crafty quarterback Taylor McHargue and the top two running backs have graduated, and the Owls need a little patching on the defensive front seven.
But there are reasons the Owls were picked a close second in the C-USA coaches’ preseason poll. That starts defensively with Christian Covington, perhaps one of the best two tackles in the league, along with a senior-laden secondary led by cornerback Bryce Callahan. Callahan and “Kat” Malcom Hill both had three interceptions.
Driphus Jackson, who has stepped onto the field with a game on the line, takes over at QB and has one dangerous target in wide receiver Jordan Taylor. He roasted the Herd secondary for a 75-yard TD pass that gave the Owls a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, an advantage that stayed in double digits thereafter.
Three interior linemen return, and Connor Cella is back to lead a group of tall tight ends — Cella is the short one at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. Robby Wells and Cole Hunt are 6-6.
Punter James Farrimond is a good weapon, averaging 42.1 yards with 17 fair catches and 15 downed inside the 20-yard line. Eleven of his kicks traveled 50-plus yards.
Offense: WR Jordan Taylor
Defense: DT Christian Covington, CB Bryce Callahan
Special teams: P James Farrimond
Bailiff continues to enjoy continuity in his coaching staff. He needed to fill just one full-time position, elevating former graduate assistant Anthony Steward to running backs coach. The other eight full-time assistants have been at Rice a combined 38 seasons, including 2014.
DATE OPPONENT 2013
Aug. 30 at Notre Dame DNP
Sept. 13 at Texas A&M L 31-52
Sept. 20 Old Dominion* DNP
Sept. 27 at Southern Miss* DNP
Oct. 4 Hawaii DNP
Oct. 11 at Army DNP
Oct. 25 North Texas* L 16-28
Nov. 1 at Fla. International* DNP
Nov. 8 Texas-San Antonio* W 27-21
Nov. 15 at Marshall* W 41-24
Nov. 21 (Fri) Texas-El Paso* W 45-7
Nov. 29 at Louisiana Tech* W 52-14
* Conference USA games
2013 record: 10-4 (won West Division, defeated Marshall in C-USA championship 41-24, lost 7-44 to Mississippi State in Liberty Bowl)
Dropped: Kansas (W 23-14), Houston (L 26-31), Florida Atlantic (W 18-14), Tulsa (W 30-27), New Mexico State (W 45-19), UAB (W 37-34), Tulane (W 17-13)