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Rice coach Mike Bloomgren, seen here in 2019, is having to deal with COVID-19 issues on his team, which may lead to the cancellation of the Owls’ Oct. game at Marshall.

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

Here are the opinions that will raise a sweat.

n What is Rice University trying to pull?

And, furthermore, why is Conference USA allowing it to happen?

Those are the two compelling questions of the day.

It all started when Rice’s season opener against LSU on Sept. 19 and the Owls’ home opener versus Lamar on Sept. 26 were canceled.

That left Rice’s game versus Marshall at 2 p.m. on Oct. 3 in Joan C. Edwards Stadium as the Owls’ season opener. Following the game in Huntington, Rice is scheduled to host UAB on Oct. 10 in Houston.

But, suspiciously enough, all that is suddenly in a state of flux.

According to a story in the Houston Chronicle, Rice has delayed the opening of football practice, which was scheduled to begin this weekend, until late September due to COVID-19 numbers in the Houston area.

Furthermore, sources with knowledge of the situation say Rice may opt out of its first two scheduled games of the season – Marshall and UAB.

Imagine the havoc that would wreak with the Herd’s schedule. Marshall already lost the East Carolina game, which was scheduled for Sept. 12. The Thundering Herd also has lost the Boise State game on Sept. 26.

So, now, if Marshall also loses Rice that means MU would play only twice during the first five weeks of the season. The Herd would be the most well-practiced team in America.

But, wait, there’s more.

It appears if Rice opts out of both the Marshall and UAB games, there’s a chance C-USA may push the Blazers to play at Marshall on Nov. 7.

Well, wouldn’t that be convenient for Rice? The Owls would be allowed to dodge two of the stronger opponents on its schedule.

That smells.

What makes the odor even more pungent is Rice athletic director Joe Karlgaard’s statement to the Houston newspaper.

“Our top priority is the safety of our community,” he said. “Rice has safely welcomed back a majority of its student body and will continue to prioritize an on-campus college experience.

“The very low rates of infection among our campus community are the result of a communal effort and one that requires continued vigilance and dedication. At the same time, we will continue to explore options to allow a football season to happen in 2020.”

Wait a minute.

Karlgaard points out Rice has “very low rates of infection among our campus community,” yet the Owls are pushing back the start of practice?

Why?

It sounds very self-serving.

Particularly in light of sources with knowledge of the situation, who say COVID-19 testing of Rice’s student body and faculty revealed less than one percent of positive cases.

Meanwhile, it has come to my attention that when Marshall tested its players, coaches and staff after the Eastern Kentucky game on Sunday, there were no positive results.

So, Rice doesn’t have any cases and Marshall doesn’t have any cases. And this game isn’t going to be played why?

According to Rice, the Owls planned to begin workouts this weekend but, then, dialed it back, saying, “current conditions related to the infection rate in Houston and the need for highly reliable and very rapid testing results in the competitive athletics context forced a delay in a decision to move forward.”

It certainly seems like Rice is looking for reasons not to play.

One problem, perhaps, is Rice’s president, David Leebron, who has been noticeably hesitant about playing the 2020 football season all along.

That’s why I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Rice didn’t even play this season.

Anybody going to miss ‘em?

It looks to me like Rice is trying to dance around the situation.

Let’s call it the “Texas Two-Step.”