Predictions: Rice vs. Notre Dame
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, August 28, 2014
Senior Sports Writer
There hasn’t been much Rice chatter of late since news broke of Notre Dame’s ongoing academic investigation.
Heck, it took until around the 27-minute mark for Brian Kelly to field a question about the Owls during his Tuesday teleconference.
That’s not to say the Irish are sleeping on Rice. The Owls won 10 games last season and claimed their first-ever Conference USA crown.
But Notre Dame has too much talent across the board. Everett Golson and the offense may need a moment to get going, and the defense likely will give up its share of big plays. However, the Owls could be without 6-foot-5 receiver Jordan Taylor.
The Irish will roll to a 1-0 start.
FINAL SCORE : Notre Dame 31, Rice 17
Notre Dame hasn’t dominated a true home opener since it shut out a Nevada team led by Colin Kaepernick in 2009.
Since then, the Irish have had three unremarkable home-opener wins, two over Purdue and one over Temple, and an ugly loss to South Florida.
Expect this home opener to be similar to last year’s against Temple, and not just because Rice is also nicknamed the Owls.
On offense, the Irish will show flashes of brilliance and moments of ineptitude. It’s to be expected from a team whose quarterback hasn’t played in 600 days.
The Irish defense will show some vulnerability and reveal its lack of depth, but it should handily hold off a Rice team trying to find its identity.
FINAL SCORE : Notre Dame 27, Rice 10
Assistant Managing Editor
Expect an Irish win, but Rice will hang tough.
Rice has an experienced coach in David Bailiff, who starts his eighth season with the Owls. Continuity in leadership should help the Owls settle down early and challenge a Notre Dame team dealing with a large turnover in starters.
It could take the Irish a little longer to find a rhythm in this game, particularly on offense, with Everett Golson seeing his first regular-season action in well more than a year.
The Irish defense will find a consistent stride first, but don’t be surprised when the offense makes some eye-popping plays even though the game overall may look inconsistent.
FINAL SCORE : Notre Dame 28, Rice 14
Assistant Managing Editor
There are a lot of question marks concerning Notre Dame, but none of them will be large enough to garner a Rice victory.
The Irish are inexperienced on defense, which could be worrisome against Rice’s creative offense, but this defensive group is probably the fastest and most athletic South Bend has seen in years.
The offense is fine. Kelly will be calling the shots and finally has the personnel to run the system he came here to implement. With a solid line and talented backfield and receiving corps, the offense will produce. The Irish will give up some points to Rice due to the learning curve, but the offense will out-produce that of the Owls.
FINAL SCORE : Notre Dame 34, Rice 24
Rice had more wins than Notre Dame last season. Rice won its conference for the first time in program history last season. But when Rice comes to Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday to open this season, the on-the-rise program won’t walk away with a win.
That’s not to say the Owls won’t hang with the Irish — this is a squad that bested its opponents by an average of two touchdowns per game in 2013. It’ll take a series or two for the Notre Dame offense to get into rhythm, so the first quarter won’t be the blowout Irish faithful expect.
But once Everett Golson finds his groove and the trio of running backs picks up a few big gains, Notre Dame will be rocking like it’s 2012.
FINAL SCORE : Notre Dame 34, Rice 20