Are you ready for the American Athletic Conference, Rice Owls fans?
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Owls Sleeper Standout
Don't sleep on former quarterback and second-year wide receiver Luke McCaffrey. In his first year as a WR, McCaffrey was the second best with 723 receiving yards and an average of 12.5 yards. Losing Bradley Rozner — the consistent No. 1 wide receiver — to the transfer portal will leave a big hole for McCaffrey to fill.
Although McCaffrey is the most likely standout of 2023, a potential solution to the years-long QB problem is flying in, too. JT Daniels might provide some stability and talent for the Owls. He played at Southern Cal, the University of Georgia and West Virginia University before coming to Rice.
Daniels has dealt with injuries throughout his six-year career that have limited some of his play and made him a bit of a risk. However, he won the starting QB gig over now-NFL quarterback Stetson Bennett as a Georgia Bulldog. Daniels shows great promise, being named the Gatorade Football Player of the Year in 2022 while also appearing on the Golden Arm Award, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp watch lists in 2022. This is the perfect opportunity for him to spread his wings.
Mike Bloomgren is in his sixth year as head coach of the Owls. This is his first head coaching gig, and he has an overall record of 16-39. Rice has gotten more wins each year for the past four years. With a total of 16 wins in five seasons, this leaves room for improvement. Last season, Rice had five wins and eight losses overall and a 3-5 conference record in Conference USA. The transition to a harder conference will put the Owls' talons to the fire.
Rice's Most Challenging Game
With new opponents including SMU and Tulane, the Owls will likely feel growing pains in 2023. Their Oct. 28 game against Tulane or their Nov. 11 game against UTSA will be the most difficult dates on the calendar. The Owls fell to the Roadrunners 41-7 last year and likely won't be excited to play them again this season.
Rice University has some exciting talent for the upcoming season. Under Bloomgren's experienced eye, the Owls will traverse their first AAC season. Their schedule is not easy. They may be able to win against Charlotte again this year. They also might be able to squirrel away a win against South Florida, which only won one game last year. The trouble is that one win was against the Rice Owls.
Other games, such as the Owls-Tulsa game and the Owls-East Carolina game, could go either way. Best-case scenario: an overall record of 4-8 (without the bowl) and a conference record of 4-4.
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