While the Rice Owls (1-1) struggle with the Baylor Bears this weekend, the Houston Cougars (3-0) will be struggling with themselves. It might seem that the Owls have the harder struggle, what with having to handle stud Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, but anybody who has watched the Cougars struggle the past couple of weeks knows that the Cougars are a team that have seemed intent on defeating themselves.
The only way the Cougars lose this weekend to
the Little Sisters of The Poor Georgia State (1-2) is if they don't even show up for the game. The Panthers didn't even have a football team two years ago, and they're a FCS school playing only their second game against a team in the FBS -- Georgia State lost to Alabama 63-7 last season. They have a well-known, well-traveled head coach in Bill Curry, who played in three of the first five Super Bowls and who previously coached at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky, but that's about it.
But while this should be an easy game for the Cougars, it needs to be known that the Cougars don't do things the easy way. Yes, the Cougars throw out Case Keenum, the program's all-time winningest quarterback, to lead the offense. And yes, he has a lot of weapons, led by receivers Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards and running backs Bryce Beall, Michael Hayes and Charles Sims. Yet despite that, the offense has, at times, struggled to find its rhythm.
The offensive line has had problems with pass protection, and some of the receivers have struggled to catch the ball. The defense has spent a lot of time on the field -- partly because they can't tackle and partly because of problems with the offense -- and this UH defense isn't one that one wants spending much time on the field.
But more than anything, the biggest problem for the Cougars has been their inability to play a complete game.
"I've said many times that to recognize the problem as a coaching staff is one thing and to communicate it to players and actually execute it is another thing," head coach Kevin Sumlin said on Tuesday. "Particularly when you have four guys in new positions on the offensive line, to have to understand what's going on and effectively get things done. Our coaches did a great job of communicating that and our players did a great job of doing it.
"Any time you're ever in that situation, it's never one thing. It's a team situation and it takes a team to pull you out of that situation, and the communication was that we can't do it all at once and it's one play at a time."
Still, considering the competition, the Cougars should easily win the game this weekend, even if they miss the first 55 minutes of the game and Keenum has to go into Captain Comeback mode. But frankly, there should be no way in hell that the Cougars have to come from 27 points down to win this game.
The Rice Owls will have a much tougher time of it this weekend as they have to take on Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears. Two weeks ago the Owls got their first win over a BCS conference school in ten years, but it's been since October of 1994 that the Owls have defeated a school from the Big 12, a 19-17 win over UT -- that's a span of 24 games. They're 99-207-8 all-time against schools from the Big 12, and they're 31-45-2 all-time against Baylor.
And this year the Owls have to deal with Griffin, one of the leading contenders for the Heisman, who can defeat a team with his feet and with his arm. He's thrown only 49 passes in his two games this season, but he's thrown eight TDs against only eight incompletions. In his 30 games, he's accounted for 53 plays of 30-plus yards, including 29 touchdowns. And then there's his top weapon, receiver Kendall Wright, who has caught a pass in each of his 39 career games.
"He [Griffin] is one of the most exciting players I have ever watched in college football," Owls coach David Bailiff said earlier this week. "He was exciting last season, but he has really matured and is making great decisions with the football. He is doing an amazing job this season."
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The Owls defense will have its work cut out for it, but the best thing for them will be a good showing from the offensive side of the ball. The Owls offense has talent, but they've been unable to put together any rhythm or consistency, looking great on one series and awful on another. The better the Owls offense looks, the more points they put on the board -- and it better be touchdowns and not field goals -- the better the Owls defense will look.
"We have to have an incredible defensive and offensive effort," Bailiff said. "It has to be a total team effort. When we get the football, we will have to eat minutes and keep Baylor's offense off the field and on defense come up with some stops and takeaways."
The Owls aren't going to defeat the Bears tomorrow. They're just not good enough for that. But if the Owls play good football and don't make error after error, then they can be competitive, which sometimes has to be good enough.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: The Rice/Baylor game kicks off at 6 p.m. in Waco. It will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest, and the radio broadcast will be on 1430 AM. The Cougar game kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on Comcast Sports Southwest. The radio broadcast will be on 790 AM.