Is This the End of the Bayou Bucket? Rice and UH Playing for Possibly the Last Time
The 2-0 Houston Cougars face the 1-1 Rice Owls at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow at Reliant Stadium. To the victor goes the Bayou Bucket, and the victor might get to hold onto the trophy for a long while because this is the last scheduled game of the series. Now that both teams are in different conferences, the little matter of finding room on the calendar for out-of-conference games becomes a bit of a problem.
Will this be the last ever Bayou Bucket?
Both schools are saying the right things about playing each other in the future. But saying things doesn't quite match the actions they're taking. Actions like filling up out-of-conference schedules so that it becomes almost impossible to play the other. Then again, it's Rice and UH and it's questionable whether the fans of those schools really care about playing each other.
So here's to the possibly last-ever edition of the Bayou Bucket. May the winner keep what Rice linebacker Michael Kutzler calls the "beautifully ugly trophy" for a long time. And for anybody who actually cares about the game, here are a few things to watch for during the game.
BATTLE OF KICKERS
Rice's Chris Boswell and Houston's Richie Leone are two of the best kickers in college football. Both have keyed their teams to victories this season, and both have the ability to kick field goals from long distance. They're also both accurate, and that's important because both offenses have a bit of a tendency to stall once reaching the red zone.
Winning or losing this game could come down to whether either misses a kick, or which kicker gets the most opportunities. Boswell is nearly automatic from long range -- something not too often seen from kickers at Reliant Stadium. But Leone has also shown confidence from all distances this season.
THE RUNNING GAMES ARE TRIUMPHANT
Houston still has the reputation of a pass-first spread offense relying heavily on finesse. But people who think that haven't seen the Cougars this year. The running game has excelled, with a big line making holes for the UH backs. Kenneth Farrow is nursing an injury and is supposedly a game time decision. But he shares the backfield with Ryan Jackson, and Jackson's rushed for 100-plus yards in both games this season. He's smaller than Farrow, but Houston head coach Tony Levine calls him explosive. And the next guy off the bench has been a compact walk-on called Justin Hicks who is probably nearing that status where he should be getting a scholarship.
Rice counters with Charles Ross, a senior running back who has his had way so far this season with the defenses of Texas A&M and Kansas. He's gone for more than 100-plus yards in both games, and he's scored four of Rice's five touchdowns. Ross looks like the prototypical big running back, and he's got a power running game. But he's quick once he gets into the open. He's also got decent hands and can be dangerous when catching short passes.