Baylor Bears (2-0 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Rice Owls (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS)
College Football Week 3
Date/Time: Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 8PM EST
Where: Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BAY -30.5/RICE +30.5
Over/Under Total: 60.5
The Baylor Bears travel to Houston to Rice Stadium to face the Rice Owls in a week three all-Texas battle. The Bears are 2-0, though they’ve yet to cover the spread. They beat SMU, 40-13, on Saturday, which followed a 50-7 week one win. But Baylor is being eased into the season, with things ramping up a bit in week three. Rice is 0-2, falling to Army last week, while losing to WKU by 32 in week one. Who can get their first cover of the season?
Rice has gotten off to a pretty slow start with the two conclusive losses to Army and WKU, a pair of teams that are probably a bit underrated. It’s just that when looking to get on the right track, an incoming Baylor team isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. They’re going to need to get better to start covering spreads. That would start behind center, where Tyler Stehling has been pretty lukewarm in two games with a single TD throw and three picks. Guys around him share in some of that blame, as well.
The Owls have been facing deficits, which takes them away from their run-game, led by their top two returning rushers from last season in Austin Walter and Darik Dillard. But for Rice to go from the 5-win team of last season to a bowl team this season, they need more balance and to be able to produce aerially when the situation presents itself. Six different receivers caught multiple receptions on Saturday, but they weren’t able to sustain drives, nor were they able to get the ball downfield.
Rice is facing long odds in this game and has opened the season as underdogs in all three of their games. It’s not an easy way for a struggling team to grow. They haven’t been helped much by a defense that has been a letdown. They have a lot of returning pieces and looked to upgrade their play this season. Maybe when they play teams more in their wheelhouse, we can see some of that supposed progression. It’s just hard to see when they’re in matchups like this. They were taken to town through the air in a week one battering by Western Kentucky, before Army gained 348 yards on the ground against the Rice “D” last week. So, it’s been less than a positive start for a Rice defense that also hasn’t secured any turnovers. In games like this, a little more resilience and a few big plays can really make a world of difference. It’s just that through two games, they’ve been a non-factor, just sort of “there.”
Baylor was hit hard in the offseason, losing coach Art Briles amidst scandal. The Bears lost some recruits and it might be hard convincing some parents to send their kids there, with those kinds of headlines leaving long-lasting images. This might be their window to thrive and with the steady hand of coach Jim Grobe, look for a robust and galvanized Baylor effort this season. They failed to cover their first two jumbo-sized spreads and look to step it up a notch against the Owls.
Seth Russell is back behind center for the Bears. He was on his way to some big things last season before going down with an injury, which spoiled their key late-season run. Against SMU, the offense took its time getting untracked, with the game tied 6-6 headed into the second half. Five second-half touchdowns put the game away, as the Bears put up 500 yards of offense. Still, there was something unfulfilling about their offensive performance, a byproduct of the super-high standards they’ve set over the past several years.
Baylor still has a large cast of speedsters and other tools at Russell’s disposal. Shock Linwood and Terence Williams are their top two running backs. KD Cannon is a top returning receiver, with a lot of faces working their way into the system with some returning pieces from last year. It’s a nice mix that hasn’t quite fired yet. We’ve seen them reload before.
For the Bears, it’s a good season to have an extended period to warm up to the task. They are working on some different things on both sides of the ball and we’re seeing some growing pains. Especially on the defensive line, they lost a ton of pieces. Still, they’ve shown a lot of potential and some playmaking ability. Safety Orion Stewart has made two picks, including a pick-six, while S Davion Hall also returned a pick 62 yards. There is a lot of speed on this side of the ball, though they are not as experienced as prior units.
Baylor hasn’t looked very good despite two wins. They lost some key recruits, along with the man that took them from being a Big 12 afterthought to a power and one of the more-compelling offenses in the nation. Not having that leadership has to hurt. It remains to be seen if the offseason issues have galvanized this team or if it will have them a bit down this season. Russell has been a bit off and they’ve committed 4 turnovers. They are still in a position to amplify their form and maybe we’ll see that this week.
Both teams have very different starting points and goals. Baylor is looking to make a national splash or at the very least become a top five or top ten team. To get there, they need to use these games to get into form, something they haven’t really done yet. They get Oklahoma State next week and it’d be a good time to get things rolling. It’s just that this is a big game for Rice, who gets limited chances to dip their toe into the deep end of the pool. At home and against an offbeat Baylor bunch, I look for the Owls to cover the super-sized spread.
Scott Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Rice Owls plus 30.5 points.
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