2013 Rice football's 10 things to know: The rare rebound

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

On October 6, 2012, Rice lost to Memphis to fall to 1-6 and put head coach David Bailiff near the top of any "coaches on the hot seat" list. Six months later, the Owls are riding a five-game winning streak, returning almost literally everybody, and talking about a conference title.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Whatever Rice's ceiling is under David Bailiff, we'll probably see it in 2013

Here's the list of impact players from Rice's 2012 that are no longer with the program in 2013: receiver Sam McGuffie, receiver Vance McDonald, defensive end Jared Williams ... the end. A team that surged over the final half of the 2012 season (over a long enough span to consider it sustainable) returns almost literally everybody of importance this year. Rice brings back two interesting quarterbacks, three big running backs, a star receivers, seven offensive linemen with starting experience, six of the top seven defensive linemen, five of the top six linebackers, and every single defensive back.

A Texas lifer, head coach David Bailiff was born in Dallas, played offensive line and tight end at Southwest Texas State (now just Texas State), and has spent 27 of his 32 years as a coach in the state of Texas. His lone departure: five years in the far away land of Albuquerque, a full 200 miles or so from the Texas border. He was the defensive line coach at New Braunfels High School, Texas State, and New Mexico. He was the defensive coordinator at Texas State and TCU. He was the head coach at Texas State. And six years ago, he took over the thankless Rice job. As a Texas lifer, he knew just how difficult that job was, and he took it anyway.

Before Bailiff, Rice had attended a single bowl since 1962, and it came the year before he arrived (2006, Todd Graham's only season at Rice [insert "Todd Graham left a job after one season???" faux outrage here]). In his second season, the Owls went 10-3 (first 10-win season since 1949) and won the Texas Bowl (first bowl win since 1953). But they would win just 11 of their next 38 games and sat at just 1-5 following a disturbing 14-10 loss at Memphis. It is sometimes difficult to get a good read for job status at mid-major schools, but one had to figure that Bailiff was on his way out in Houston. One good season in six years, punctuated by a total collapse, typically signifies the end of a coach's tenure.

Six months after that loss to Memphis, however, an incredible amount has changed. Rice rallied to win six of its final seven games, with the only loss a tight home defeat to eventual conference champion Tulsa. The Owls played a truly decent level for the final half of the season, and now they get to try to do it again with almost the exact same cast of characters. Last-second comebacks don't usually happen in the coaching profession, but we may be witnessing one here.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 4-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 87
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug UCLA 24-49 L 23.3 - 47.0 L
8-Sep at Kansas 25-24 W 18.9 - 32.9 L
15-Sep at Louisiana Tech 37-56 L 25.9 - 39.6 L
22-Sep Marshall 51-54 L 32.0 - 34.9 L
29-Sep vs. Houston 14-35 L 19.1 - 38.6 L
6-Oct at Memphis 10-14 L 12.3 - 20.5 L
13-Oct UTSA 34-14 W 29.3 - 19.8 W
20-Oct at Tulsa 24-28 L 25.2 - 28.7 L
27-Oct Southern Miss 44-17 W 29.0 - 23.3 W
3-Nov at Tulane 49-47 W 24.6 - 49.8 L
17-Nov SMU 36-14 W 31.3 - 30.4 W
24-Nov at UTEP 33-24 W 24.4 - 38.4 L
29-Dec vs. Air Force 33-14 W 32.1 - 12.3 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 31.8 41 30.0 78
Adj. Points Per Game 25.2 91 32.0 96

2. Seven games is a trend

We tend to make too much of great bowl performances. It's the reason why Louisville is probably going to be a preseason Top 10 team this coming year despite only looking like a Top 10 team once or twice last year; one of those instances came in the Sugar Bowl against Florida, and they will feel the West Virginia Effect™ this fall because of it.

Rice looked tremendous in disposing of Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, but that's one game. The reason to be pretty optimistic about Rice is not because of one game, but because of seven.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 6 games): Opponent 33.9, Rice 21.9 (minus-12.0)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 7 games): Opponent 29.0, Rice 28.0 (minus-1.0)

Rice had a bad defense and worse offense through the first six games of the season, but the Owls turned things around a bit on both sides of the ball (especially offense) and became a thoroughly decent team. The purpose of Adj. Score is to look at how your record might have taken shape if you were playing a perfectly average team, with a perfectly average number of breaks, each week. That Rice was still minus-1.0 points per game versus this theoretical average team shows that the Owls still had plenty of holes; they did, after all, barely beat Tulane and only looked decent against UTEP.

But improvement is improvement, and an average team can still win quite a few games in Conference USA. Plus, it had been a while since Rice saw average.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 44 100 82 109
RUSHING 29 77 71 81
PASSING 67 99 93 100
Standard Downs 101 86 106
Passing Downs 84 71 90
Redzone 97 98 98
Q1 Rk 119 1st Down Rk 94
Q2 Rk 57 2nd Down Rk 106
Q3 Rk 100 3rd Down Rk 88
Q4 Rk 75

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Taylor McHargue 6'1, 220 Sr. *** (5.5) 194 325 2,209 59.7% 12 5 25 7.1% 5.9
Driphus Jackson 6'0, 200 So. *** (5.6) 39 69 672 56.5% 6 0 7 9.2% 8.4
Nate German 6'2, 215 Fr. ** (5.4)








3. Poor Taylor McHargue

It was kind of a worst-case scenario for Taylor McHargue in the Armed Forces Bowl. The then-junior, whose own improvement had largely mirrored Rice's as a whole in October and November, struggled through the first half, throwing for just 31 yards in eight passes, getting sacked twice, and losing two fumbles. He was knocked out of the game with injury, and his backup, highly-touted redshirt freshman Driphus Jackson, came in and dominated: 15-for-21 passing for 264 yards and two scores, with 32 rushing yards thrown in for good measure. He looked outstanding, and it created a "How long can McHargue hold Jackson off?" narrative for 2013.

Thus far, the answer appears to be at least "Through the spring." McHargue had a solid spring and outplayed Jackson in the spring game. And for the 2012 season as a whole, McHargue was potentially better, too. He was a more effective runner, and while he took far too many sacks, he took fewer than Jackson. He was not nearly as aggressive in the passing game, but Rice could do worse than to start the season with McHargue and see what happens.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Charles Ross RB 6'1, 230 Sr. ** (5.4) 147 800 5.4 4.8 5 -2.7
Taylor McHargue QB 6'1, 220 Sr. *** (5.5) 139 824 5.9 5.6 11 +14.1
Turner Petersen RB 6'2, 230 Jr. ** (5.2) 127 599 4.7 3.8 5 -5.6
Jeremy Eddington RB 6'2, 235 Sr. *** (5.6) 45 201 4.5 4.0 1 -1.9
Driphus Jackson QB 6'0, 200 So. *** (5.6) 40 153 3.8 3.6 1 -4.7
Luke Turner RB 6'1, 210 So. *** (5.5) 35 146 4.2 5.9 2 -1.6
Brandon Hamilton RB 5'11, 210 So. *** (5.6) 34 93 2.7 2.7 0 -7.4
Sam McGuffie WR-A 5 16 3.2 1.8 0 -0.9
Jowan Davis RB 5'7, 205 Fr. ** (5.4)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jordan Taylor WR-B 6'5, 210 Jr. ** (5.4) 93 57 826 61.3% 8.9 24.2% 66.7% 9.1 75.0
Sam McGuffie WR-A 82 54 603 65.9% 7.4 21.4% 56.1% 7.4 54.7
Vance McDonald WR-Y 53 36 458 67.9% 8.6 13.8% 52.8% 8.3 41.6
Donte Moore WR-F 6'0, 180 Sr. ** (5.1) 40 26 326 65.0% 8.2 10.4% 62.5% 8.1 29.6
Mario Hull (2011) WR-A 6'1, 210 Jr. *** (5.5) 32 17 181 53.1% 5.7 8.7% 46.1% N/A N/A
Dennis Parks WR-B 6'2, 185 So. *** (5.5) 24 7 112 29.2% 4.7 6.3% 58.3% 4.7 10.2
Taylor Cook WR-Y 20 10 134 50.0% 6.7 5.2% 80.0% 6.5 12.2
Turner Petersen RB 6'2, 230 Jr. ** (5.2) 19 14 166 73.7% 8.7 4.9% 57.9% 8.8 15.1
Charles Ross RB 6'1, 230 Sr. ** (5.4) 18 10 98 55.6% 5.4 4.7% 83.3% 6.0 8.9
Luke Wilson WR-Y 14 9 126 64.3% 9.0 3.6% 78.6% 8.8 11.4
Andre Gautreaux WR-A 6'0, 195 Sr. ** (5.2) 7 3 27 42.9% 3.9 1.8% 42.9% 4.2 2.5
Klein Kubiak WR 6'1, 195 Sr. ** (4.9) 5 2 22 40.0% 4.4 1.3% 0.0% 1.7 2.0
Jeremy Eddington RB 6'2, 235 Sr. *** (5.6) 4 3 12 75.0% 3.0 1.0% 75.0% 4.4 1.1
Connor Cella WR-Y 6'3, 235 RSFr. ** (5.4)








Reid Mitchell WR-Y 6'2, 235 RSFr. *** (5.5)








Cole Hunt TE 6'7, 240 Fr. *** (5.6)








4. Size is good (Rice hopes)

For a few years now, Rice has had one of the most unique offensive lineups in college football. The Owls' three leading running backs in 2012 were all at least 6'1, 230 pounds, and 2011's leading receivers, Vance McDonald and Luke Wilson, averaged 6'5, 255. This was a big team, capable of punishing you physically ... and incapable of making big plays and actually scoring points. I wanted this lineup to work because I love uniqueness, but it just wasn't happening.

In 2012, however, the running game began to click. McHargue and Charles Ross showed decent big-play ability, and Rice was able to lean more heavily on the ground game. The passing game has its moments, and anybody who saw Jordan Taylor's performance in the Armed Forces Bowl (12 targets, nine catches, 153 yards, three touchdowns) has starry eyes for what could become of the passing game. But Rice still needs to prove itself in the passing game. The bowl wasn't the norm. Taylor (6'5, but 'only' 210 pounds) has star potential, but he'll need help from Donte Moore, spring star Klein Kubiak, and some higher-ceiling (and big) youngsters.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 99.9 2.93 3.47 39.6% 81.5% 16.9% 72.5 5.0% 10.3%
Rank 73 71 38 58 5 29 104 68 108
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Drew Carroll RG 6'4, 290 Jr. ** (5.3) 20 career starts
Jon Hodde LT 6'7, 300 Sr. ** (5.2) 17 career starts
Nate Richards C 6'4, 300 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 career starts
Caleb Williams RT 6'3, 275 So. ** (5.3) 12 career starts
Nico Carlson LG 6'3, 275 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 career starts
Andrew Reue RG 6'5, 290 So. ** (5.3) 3 career starts
Ian Gray LT 6'8, 325 Jr. ** (5.4) 3 career starts
Bobby Janisch RG
Matt Simonette LG 6'2, 305 Jr. NR
Matt Wofford RT 6'7, 305 So. *** (5.5)
Connor Patterson LG 6'4, 290 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Spencer Stanley C 6'2, 275 RSFr. ** (5.3)
Brandon Dawkins RT 6'7, 300 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Kenneth Thompson OL 6'4, 283 Fr. *** (5.5)

5. A decent line becomes a good line

The offensive line had to replace five players with a combined 150 career starts following the 2011 season but actually improved by a decent amount in run blocking. The Owls were fantastic in short-yardage situations (not surprising considering the big backs), but they were also good at limiting negative plays on the ground (Stuff Rate) and keeping drives moving forward. The pass blocking could use some help, especially as it pertains to handling blitzes, but considering the level of experience on this unit, at least marginal improvement in both facets of line play should be expected.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 84 100 82 109
RUSHING 89 109 87 113
PASSING 64 92 72 97
Standard Downs 112 92 119
Passing Downs 82 69 86
Redzone 119 120 119
Q1 Rk 89 1st Down Rk 113
Q2 Rk 100 2nd Down Rk 107
Q3 Rk 120 3rd Down Rk 65
Q4 Rk 45

6. Opponents gave up on passing downs

Rice played pass-happy teams like Houston, Tulane, and Marshall last year. And until the bowl game, the Owls didn't play a particularly run-heavy team. So when you see that opponents ran the ball 44 percent of the time on passing downs, more than 10 percent above the national average, that is significant.

Opponents feared Rice's pass rush, and with good reason. The Owls had one of the 10 best pass rushes in the country, one that was terrifying in its diversity. Four different linemen logged at least 5.0 sacks, and none logged more than 5.5. Three of those four return, as do all three Owl linebackers who brought the quarterback down at least a couple of times. In all, though, Rice's 28 sacks were not that impressive as a raw total -- it ranked just 44th overall and was less than half of No. 1 Stanford's total (57). But opponents intentionally didn't give Rice a chance to sack the quarterback.

Of course, this great pass rush would have been more of a strength if Rice could have shown any ability to stop the run.

7. Opponents didn't have to face many passing downs

As good as the Rice offensive line was in short yardage situations, the defensive line was equally bad. And in all, while the line stats below weren't the very worst in the country, they were bad enough to set the table for some bad overall rushing stats. And the linebackers didn't seem to help much. Cameron Nwosu was a solid playmaker, with seven tackles for loss and four passes defensed, but you have to stop the other team from making plays too.

If experience leads to stronger play on standard downs -- and there's nothing saying it will, really; experience doesn't automatically give less talented players more pure talent -- then the defense's overall play could improve dramatically considering the passing down strengths.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 92.6 3.30 2.92 42.5% 83.8% 17.4% 140.1 5.4% 9.7%
Rank 94 111 36 106 123 90 10 39 17
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cody Bauer DE 6'4, 255 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 43.5 6.6% 12 5.5 1 1 2 2
Hosam Shahin NT 6'3, 290 Sr. ** (5.1) 13 36.0 5.4% 9.5 5 0 0 1 0
Christian Covington DT 6'3, 290 So. *** (5.5) 12 34.5 5.2% 8 5 0 1 1 0
Jared Williams DE 13 34.0 5.1% 7 5.5 0 0 4 1
Stuart Mouchantaf NT 6'4, 290 Jr. ** (5.3) 13 8.5 1.3% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Patt DE 6'2, 240 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 7.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 1 1
Trevor Gillette DE 6'3, 240 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 6.5 1.0% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Jamael Thomas DT 12 6.5 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Tanner Leland DE 6'2, 240 Sr. ** (5.3) 9 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Trevor Jones DE 6'5, 265 Jr. NR 11 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ross Winship DT 6'4, 290 So. *** (5.5) 8 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Dylan Klare DE 6'2, 270 Jr. *** (5.5)

Cody Hennessee DT 6'4, 280 So. *** (5.5)

Brad Luvender DT 6'4, 256 Fr. ** (5.4)

Parker Hanusa DE 6'3, 224 Fr. ** (5.4)

Graysen Schantz DE 6'3, 240 Fr. ** (5.4)

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cameron Nwosu SLB 5'10, 240 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 73.5 11.1% 7 2.5 2 2 0 0
James Radcliffe WLB 6'1, 220 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 34.0 5.1% 4.5 2 0 1 0 1
Kyle Prater WLB 11 29.0 4.4% 1.5 0 0 2 0 0
Michael Kutzler SLB 6'0, 205 Jr. NR 13 13.5 2.0% 2 2 0 0 0 2
Nick Elder WLB 6'0, 215 So. ** (5.4) 10 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Broderick Jackson LB 5'10, 205 Sr. NR 13 1.0 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Lyons LB 6'0, 215 RSFr. *** (5.5)

D.J. Green LB 6'2, 226 Fr. ** (5.4)

Brian Womac LB 6'2, 230 Fr. ** (5.4)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Paul Porras KAT 6'1, 200 Sr. ** (5.1) 13 78.5 11.8% 2.5 0 2 4 0 1
Julius White FS 5'10, 195 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 67.0 10.1% 3.5 0 2 6 3 0
Malcolm Hill SS 5'11, 185 So. ** (5.4) 13 37.5 5.6% 0 0 1 3 1 1
Gabe Baker SS 6'1, 210 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 35.0 5.3% 2 0 1 2 1 1
Bryce Callahan CB 5'10, 180 Jr. *** (5.5) 8 29.0 4.4% 2 0 2 7 0 0
Phillip Gaines CB 6'1, 185 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 28.0 4.2% 2 0 0 18 0 1
Alex Francis CB 5'9, 190 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 17.5 2.6% 2.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Garrett Fuhrman FS 5'8, 170 So. ** (5.2) 7 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Jaylon Finner DB 5'10, 195 Jr. *** (5.6) 5 5.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 1 0
J.T. Blasingame CB 5'8, 170 So. ** (5.3) 12 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Corey Frazier S 6'1, 215 Sr. ** (5.3) 1 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Espinosa S 6'2, 210 So. *** (5.5) 13 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Ryan Pollard CB 5'8, 170 So. ** (5.4)

Austin Laudenschlager KAT 6'0, 195 So. NR

Anthony Canady DB 5'9, 172 Fr. *** (5.5)

Cole Thomas DB 6'2, 191 Fr. *** (5.5)

8. Every -- EVERY -- defensive back returns

That Rice ranked 10th in Adj. Sack Rate and still ranked just 92nd in Passing S&P+ probably tells you that the secondary was, to put it kindly, lacking. It wasn't for lack of aggressiveness, though. Six defensive backs made at least two plays behind the line of scrimmage, and five defensed at least four passes. The problem, as with the run defense, was big plays. If Rice wasn't making them, it was allowing them. Only five FBS teams were worse at preventing big plays through the air, which makes it a double-edged sword that every Rice defensive back returns in 2013. Some new blood would be nice, and if one of two three-star freshmen were able to crack into the rotation, that might be a good thing.

That said, there is certainly potential here. Corners Bryce Callahan and Phillip Gaines combined to defense 27 passes (with Callahan only playing in eight games), which, combined with a low overall number of tackles (57.0), suggests that these pass defenses weren't simply of the "opponents targeted them all the time" variety. They were making plays on the ball. And veteran safeties Paul Porras and Julius White were indeed able to play both aggressively and effectively at times. But man oh man, did they give up a lot of big plays. I can only talk myself into this unit to a degree.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Taylor Cook 39 36.4 1 23 9 82.1%
Chris Boswell 6'2, 200 Sr. 14 40.5 2 5 5 71.4%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Chris Boswell 6'2, 200 Sr. 80 63.8 49 61.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Chris Boswell 6'2, 200 Sr. 45-47 12-13 92.3% 11-16 68.8%
James Farrimond 6'0, 210 So. 0-1 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Luke Turner KR 6'1, 210 So. 13 20.6 0
Jeremy Eddington KR 6'2, 235 Sr. 9 34.0 1
Dennis Parks PR 6'2, 185 So. 13 3.2 0
Sam McGuffie PR 5 6.2 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 11
Net Punting 95
Net Kickoffs 6
Touchback Pct 9
Field Goal Pct 30
Kick Returns Avg 41
Punt Returns Avg 103

9. Chris Boswell has a cannon

Special teams was a secret weapon for Rice all season. Rice ranked a healthy 36th in Field Position Advantage, in part because Chris Boswell was one of the nation's best kickoff guys. Nearly two-thirds of his kickoffs were unreturnable, and in limited opportunities, he actually proved decent in the punting game, too. His cannon was a lovely weapon for the offense -- on field goals under 40 yards, he was nearly automatic, and he made a healthy 11 of 16 over 40 as well. For an offense that still struggled with big plays at times, knowing you've got three points nearly in the bag once you cross the opponent's 30 is lovely.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Texas A&M 13
14-Sep Kansas 104
21-Sep Houston 57
28-Sep Florida Atlantic 116
5-Oct at Tulsa 56
12-Oct at UT-San Antonio 114
19-Oct at New Mexico State 123
26-Oct UTEP 108
2-Nov at North Texas 112
16-Nov Louisiana Tech 89
23-Nov at UAB 105
30-Nov Tulane 111
Five-Year F/+ Rk 101
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 82
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +5 / +14.1
TO Luck/Game -3.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 19 (9, 10)
Yds/Pt Margin** -0.8

10. Rice might not lose after October 5

"Anything less than a double-digit win season and a conference championship would be a disappointment," McHargue said. "With the guys we have coming back and a favorable schedule, I can't think of any reason why that shouldn't happen."

Rice finished last season ranked 87th in the overall F/+ rankings. They played at what was probably a Top 70 level over the final half of the season. Returning 19 starters results in nearly guaranteed improvement. So let's conservatively say that the Owls play at a Top 75 level in 2013.

That puts them ahead of nine 2013 opponents and significantly ahead of eight.

I can't go far as to say, like McHargue, that anything less than a Conference USA title would be a disappointment, but I'm not sure Rice will ever have a more golden opportunity to rack up a gaudy win total, especially if the Owls take out Houston on September 21. Assuming losses to Texas A&M and Tulsa, it would then take an upset for them to finish worse than 10-2. We'll set the bar at 9-3, but wow, does this team, with this experience and this schedule, have a chance to have a lovely season. It might need to win at Tulsa to reach the C-USA game, and that seems a bit much, but again, the David Bailiff Era was on life support in early October 2012. Now Bailiff has a serious opportunity; it would be a damn shame if his team didn't capitalize on it in 2013.

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