The final non conference game of the 2018 season, bowl games excluded of course, is a home game against the Rice Owls in a battle of two of the smallest schools in Division I FBS football.
Putting it bluntly, the Owls were very bad last season. They managed to win just one game against UTEP, which was in the second week of the season, and proceeded to finish the year on a 10 game losing streak. Their offense ranked 125th out of 130 teams, managing just 16.2 points per game. Their defense ranked 113th out of 130 teams, giving up a whopping 35.8 points per game. After the 1-11 season, the Owls parted ways with 11 year coach David Bailiff and hired Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgreen.
Bailiff actually led the Owls to a Conference USA title in 2013, going 10-4, but finished his time in Houston with four straight losing seasons, culminating in last season’s 1-11 record.
With Bloomgreen at the helm, the Deacs should expect to see a very Stanford like pro-style offense utilizing a lot of single back sets and relying heavily on the run. As every Wake Forest fan knows from experience, the first year under a new head coach after a bad season is going to be pretty tough, so I wouldn’t expect Rice to be able to turn it all around by the time we play on September 29th.
The Bloomgreen hire makes a lot of sense, because while Stanford is obviously bigger and has much more to work with than Rice does, the mentality of “student-athlete” applies to both schools. It is definitely a “get back to basics” hire, and while I don’t expect a lot of things right off the bat, it should prove to be a good hire moving forward.
Rice was picked to finish tied for last in the West of CUSA with UTEP, who was 0-12 last season.
Since there is a new coach I expect to see a different type of football than what Rice played last season, but there is a decent amount of returning starters on the offensive side of things, particularly at the skill positions. That being said, when you are projected to be 128th in the S&P+ it’s not always good to return a lot of players.
Football Study Hall projects just over four wins for Bloomgreen in his first season, which would not be a bad bounce back from last year. The Owls host in-city rival Houston in week two, and also travel to LSU later on in the season. A trip to Hawaii and Wake Forest early in the season will also provide some fun travel.
Rice is, at least on paper, by far the easiest team Wake will play this season aside from Towson of the FCS. This is a game the Deacs need to get up early and get some young guys some snaps in the second half. S&P+ has Wake by 26 points, and hopefully should not be much of a game after the first quarter.