2008 Texas Bowl Preview
Western Michigan (9-3, 6-2; MAC) vs. Rice (9-3, 7-1; C-USA)
December 30th, 2008 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – NFL Network – Houston, Texas
Bring on the fireworks in the Texas Bowl! The two starting quarterbacks in this game have combined for over 7,300 yards and 75 Touchdowns through the air, the second highest total of any bowl game this season. In what will be a home game for the Rice Owls, both teams will battle it out to win their 10th game of the season on the field of Reliant Stadium, less than two miles south of Rice’s campus. Rice will be looking to win their second bowl game in three seasons while WMU will try to bring home the school’s first bowl win in their entire history.
Western Michigan has had a surprising season. While the Broncos were expected to be good this season, no one expected their offense to explode while their defense struggled. Junior quarterback Tim Hiller is the engine which makes their offense go, but he is supported by junior running back Brandon West (970 rush yards, 8 TDs) and star senior wide receiver Jamarko Simmons (1,184 receiving yards, 7 TDs). Their offensive firepower will be needed, however, as WMU ranks #96 in the country in pass defense and has been a big disappointment on defense this year. The Broncos come into the game with wins in three of their five final games but haven’t scored more than 31 points during that stretch.
Rice had a huge turnaround this season, flipping their record from 3-9 to 9-3. Even more impressive is the six game winning streak that the Owls bring into this contest. During their second half winning run, Rice averaged over 44 points per game on offense and boasted an average margin of victory of two touchdowns! While Rice clearly relies on their excellent offense to win football games, their defense has forced 13 turnovers during their winning streak and improved their scoring numbers during the second half of the season.
This game seems to favor Rice for a few reasons. One is the location of the game, which will allow Rice to prepare in their own facility and sleep in their own beds, a definite advantage. Another is the matchup of the country’s #96 pass defense against Rice’s Chase Clement and his 3,800 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. That bodes very well for the Owls. The final advantage for Rice is that Western Michigan hasn’t played well when matched up with equal or more talented teams. Outside of a shockingly bad effort by Illinois in the Broncos’ 23-17 upset of the Illini, WMU hasn’t come within ten points of their other similarly talented opponents. I think that Rice’s excellent passing offense will allow them to outscore WMU and the Rice defense will come up with a couple of turnovers to help the cause. The Rice Owls win this one handily in a very high scoring game.
Texas Bowl Pick: Rice 48 - Western Michigan 34
by Matt Baxendell
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