The Owls could come home with a bowl win for Christmas.

A Nice Bowl o' Rice

Great, now I have less smack fodder for my Rice alum friends...

The Rice Owls departed this morning for New Orleans, where they'll take on Troy, er, sorry, Troy for the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Friday. It's still a bit of a head scratcher — Rice U. is enjoying just its fourth winning season since 1993, and its first bowl berth in 45 years.

You can't say enough about rookie coach Todd Graham, who unlike a certain sanctified former A&M coach -- *cough Gary Kubiak cough* -- has managed to turn his team around overnight. And Todd Graham ain't working with million-dollar-per-year athletes, either. He's dealing with kids who'd be walk-ons at most Big 12 programs. Local sports fans know Graham's story well. Dude walked into his office at the first of the year, and changed the team's helmets, unis and of course, the game plans. Rice Stadium now has a new field and scoreboard thanks to Todd.

Due respect to Graham, it's still kinda hard to think about the Rice football program without thinking of Ken Hatfield, a class act of a head coach. The Chron's M.K. Bower has a good story about Hatfield, who's still rootin' fer Rice from his ranch in Arkansas. Hatfield's no slouch, and many a graduated player credits him for molding them into a fully functioning adult, which is more than can be said for your average grad of Tha U.

So safe travels and good luck, Owls. The smart money has you guys winning in New Orleans, as surreal as that may sound. — Steven Devadanam

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