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The Rice Owls and Army West Point Black Knights square off to open the 2019 season on Friday night, as the two teams meet for the 10th time in the series.
The Owls will be looking to rebound from a disappointing 2 – 11 season, while the Cadets hope to follow up their 11-win campaign in 2018.
Rice was a dismal 0 – 7 on the road in 2018, but head coach Mike Bloomgren has brought in some talent through the transfer process to hopefully right the ship. That process will not be easy in looking at the Rice schedule for this season, as Wake Forest, Texas, and Baylor are lined up after this trip to West Point.
Army has lost a few pieces of that defense that were stellar a year ago, as only 4 starters are returning on that side of the ball. However, senior QB Kelvin Hopkins returns with a wealth of upperclassmen returning on offense for coach Jeff Monken.
Rice hoping to avoid another disastrous season in 2019
The Rice Owls have simply been terrible over the last few years, as the team has no more than four wins during any of the last four seasons.
— Rice Football (@RiceFootball) August 26, 2019
Head Coach Mike Bloomgren enters his second season manning the Rice sideline, and it might just be another long campaign out of Houston again. Many, if not all of the major magazines and pundits have Rice at the bottom of the Conference USA West standings for 2019.
Obviously, that makes it tough to predict much prosperity for the Owls again, but maybe there will be some surprises to come?
Coach Bloomgren has done a lot of work in the off-season to bring in some players from out of the transfer window, one of which being senior QB Tom Stewart who is a Harvard grad. Stewart earned Honorable Mention All-Ivy honors last season with 9 starts and a 14 – 2 TD / INT ratio to go along with 1.614 passing yards.
“Camp is generally just a grind and you have to continually find ways to get better,” Stewart said on the QB battle. “Having a room full of guys has made that process a lot easier. We push each other every day, the floor continues continues to rise, and the standard of play is getting better, which is a good thing.” Tom Stewart on the Rice QB battle.
In all honesty, some of these Rice receivers will put up some decent numbers this season, with the likes of Aaron Cephus and Austin Trammell who return for their junior campaigns in 2019. Unfortunately, Cephus was suspended indefinitely from the team to start the season, so that will open the door for other players to step up until, and/or if, he returns.
On the other side of the ball… uh, well, the news might not be as good. Rice has a total of 17 starts from their entire group of D-linemen, although there is some experience at LB to hopefully ease some of that pain.
Cadets targeting a third straight double-digit win season
Army is on the verge of a third straight season with double-digit wins, and head coach Jeff Monken feels he has a damn good shot of making that happen.
The offense is surely in good shape with returning QB Kelvin Hopkins calling the signals. Hopkins is surrounded by experience as all 11 starters on offense are either juniors or seniors with the program entering 2019.
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) August 26, 2019
Army has won 13 straight games played at West Point, and they enter the season having won back-to-back Commander-In-Chief trophies for the first time since the 3-way rivalry started in 1972.
One issue I see Army facing is on the defensive side of the ball, as only 4 starters return from a defense that was outrageous a year ago. Army ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense and rushing defense last season and sat 8th overall allowing 295.5 YPG.
Matching that production will not be an easy task, although the Army schedule doesn’t exactly look all that intimidating outside of the stops at Michigan, Air Force, and Hawaii.
The #2 rushing attack from a year ago will not have many familiar faces in that backfield this year either, as only 2 of their top-7 rushers return.
- Black Knights are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. CUSA.
- Black Knights are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 Friday games.
- Owls are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games.
- Road team is 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings.
Updated on Aug 30 at 8:50am EDT
Update prepared by our editoral staff
Public Money / Line Movements
The Sharps are all over the Rice Owls in this one as the Cadets have gotten 73% of the bets, yet the line has gone from Army -24.5 down to Army -22.5.
Injury / Weather Report
Rice’s Impact Injury Report
Army’s Impact Injury Report
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
So, three touchdowns and a little change? I saw this line open at -24 for Army, and it would be nice if we still had those 24 points here.
But, with that many points and what should be a closer game than the experts think, we think dog!
This will be a 36 – 18 type of game and don’t ask me how I came up with that LOL
Rice and the points make my board at +21.5, and it will point me towards this over as well.
Prediction: Rice +21.5
Full-Game Total Pick
This total is set a little low in my opinion, and you see my score prediction that puts us into the 50s.
Again, I see a much closer contest despite the disparity in last year’s records, but that was then and this is now.
Is Rice going to upset Army? Of course, they’re not but a good fight should help build a semblance of confidence for them going forward.
The Over 48 comes in as the play to make!
Prediction: Over 48