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HD Media sports columnist Chuck Landon

Sure, Rice’s record is a meager 1-2.

And yes, the Owls’ lone win was over hapless Southern Miss.

Besides all that, undefeated Marshall University is a strong 23-point favorite over Rice at noon Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

But despite having every reason in the college football world to take the Owls lightly, Marshall’s players are saying all the right words.

Senior left guard Alex Mollette is a prime example.

“They are a really, really good defense,” said the 6-foot-3, 294-pound redshirt senior. “They do a lot of good things. Even when we played them last year, they had a lot of solid players up front. They had some good linebackers. They were a good football team last year.”

Well, sort of.

After losing to Marshall 20-7 in Houston, the Owls finished the season with three consecutive victories — 31-28 over Middle Tennessee, 20-14 over North Texas and 30-16 over UTEP.

“Now they’ve just got a lot of older guys,” pointed out Mollette. “They’ve got a really, really good defense. We have to prepare right for them. You have to get after them.

“All of their defensive linemen are very, very solid, really good players. They have a linebacker who was really, really good last year. He’s doing the same things he did last year this year. All around they are a very, very solid defense. As a whole, we’re going to game-plan around them.”

Does anybody smell smoke?

Sure, Rice has won four of its last six games. I’ll concede that much. But the point spread is still 23 points. Granted, Rice did play Marshall tough in 2019.

“We got in the game,” remembered Mollette, “and said, ‘What the heck? These guys are good. This is a good football team.’ I don’t know what happened last year. I know they ended up winning three games at the end of the season.

“They started to put it together at the end of last year. They have a lot of those guys back. I think it says a lot about their head coach [Mike Bloomgren] doing a really, really good job. And I think they have a very bright future in our conference.”

OK then.

Perhaps it will be a physical game on the field. But on the scoreboard? It will be a 41-13 Marshall victory.

n Now for West Virginia University at Iowa State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Ames, Iowa.

A disturbance in the force has occurred in this rivalry. For years, it wasn’t one. A rivalry, I mean. WVU won five of the first six games vs. Iowa State after joining the Big 12.

The Mountaineers were 3-0 in Ames and 2-1 in Morgantown against the Cyclones. The only blip was a 52-44 loss in triple overtime in Morgantown in 2013.

But then it happened.

A quarterback from Gilbert, Arizona, by the name of Brock Purdy arrived and, suddenly, everything changed. WVU hasn’t defeated Iowa State since, home or away.

In 2018, Purdy completed 18 of 25 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-14 win over WVU. In 2019, Purdy led Iowa State to a 38-14 win at Mountaineer Field by hitting 19 of 30 passes for 229 yards and another touchdown.

Now Purdy and the Cyclones are 7-2, ranked No. 12 in the country and are headed for the Big 12 championship game.


WVU will lose 31-24.

Contact Chuck Landon at