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Rice (0-0) at (17) Notre Dame (0-0)



Saturday, August 30, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

The Sports Network

GAME NOTES: Two teams eager to prove themselves will clash on Saturday afternoon when the 17th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish begin their season against the visiting Rice Owls.

Obviously what each of these teams wants to prove is very different. The Owls, a program with history certainly, but not nearly as much as Notre Dame, would like to show that last year's 10-4 record was no fluke. They would also like to bounce back from a 44-7 beating at the hands of the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Liberty Bowl, which soured a Conference USA title and their first 10-win season since 2008.

After a 12-0 regular season in 2012, which was marred a bit by the Manti Te'o controversy, the Fighting Irish remained a strong team last year, finishing 9-4 while navigating their usual difficult schedule. That success came despite the loss of starting quarterback Everett Golson to a season-long suspension. With Golson back in the fold, the goal is to get back into national title contention.

The first step toward achieving that goal should be a relatively easy one, considering Notre Dame has defeated Rice in all four previous matchups.

While Golson may be back, the Irish are still facing some controversy entering the season, with four players currently facing potential NCAA violations. Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels is one of the four, and his absence will be tough to ignore. He was the top returning player in terms of receptions (49), receiving yards (745) and touchdowns (seven). Chris Brown caught only 15 balls for 209 yards and a single score a year ago, and Ben Koyack has potential after turning 10 receptions into 171 yards and three TDs.

With the lack of depth at wide receiver an obvious weakness, head coach Brian Kelly will have to rely even more on Golson's play-making ability. Golson threw for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns, and also rushed for six scores while leading the Irish to the BCS National Title game in 2012. A return to form, or a bit of an improvement, would go a long way in keeping Notre Dame competitive. It will also give a boost to an offense that ranked 67th in the country with an average of 406.2 ypg a year ago.

Cam McDaniels (705 yards, three TDs) and Tarean Folston (470 yards, three TDs) give the Irish a strong one-two punch in the backfield, which should further take pressure off of the passing game.

"Folston is a really smooth operator and very productive, but Cam is so efficient in everything that he does for us. He's invaluable from that perspective," Kelly said of his two running backs.

The defense will also be a bit of a work in progress for Notre Dame, which has just four returning starters and a new coordinator in Brian VanGorder. The Irish have been a solid group the last few seasons, letting up just 366.2 yards and 22.4 points per game in 2013.

Returning to that type of production will require big years in both play and leadership from linebacker Jaylon Smith (67 tackles) and safety Austin Collinsworth (43 tackles, three INTs), especially with defensive back KeiVarae Russell, defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore also involved in the possible NCAA violations that will keep Daniels out on offense.

Kelly is clearly confident that Smith can live up to his role.

"I think we've seen a lot of growth in his game," Kelly said of Smith. "He was an outside player, and now he's not just a leveraged player, he's playing inside out, which requires so much more as a football player. Discipline, instincts, pass coverage, so many things that he's grown into."

The first test for Smith and company will come against Rice's offense, which relies heavily on the run. The Owls were 17th in the country in rushing offense last season (227.4 ypg), but just 68th in total offense (405.6 ypg). All in all it wasn't too bad a year, but the trouble is that they must replace starting running back Charles Ross (1,280 yards, 15 TDs) and quarterback Taylor McHargue (169-of-324, 2,345 yards, 17 TDs, five INTs).

Driphus Jackson will take over for McHargue after serving as his backup last season. Jackson only threw 16 passes last year and completed only five. He is a threat on the ground, like McHargue, tallying 156 yards and a score in his limited time on the field.

The next in line at running back is also readily apparent. Last year's backup Jowan Davis (476 yards, three TDs) will be lining up in the backfield for the Owls.

Jordan Taylor (55 receptions, 848 yards, eight TDs) and Dennis Parks (29 receptions, 508 yards, three TDs) make for a solid receiving tandem, and tight end Connor Cella (13 receptions, 130 yards, TD) could see a bit more action.

On defense, Rice was among the top-30 teams in the country last year, at least with regard to yards allowed (364.1 ypg). The real strength of the squad came against the pass, with teams averaging only 202.7 yards per game against the Owls. Central to that success was cornerback Malcolm Hill (50 tackles, three INTs), who is the leader of the defensive backfield. Expect linebacker James Radcliffe (63 tackles) and defensive tackle Christian Covington (59 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) to figure prominently as well.

Despite the controversy swirling around Daniels, Russell, Williams and Moore, the Irish are a solid team from top to bottom, especially with the return of Golson under center. Rice won 10 games last season, but shouldn't count on a victory to start this one.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Notre Dame 31, Rice 13

08/29 15:15:42 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
UCLA
 
Final
PHI 91
BRK 99
Final
ORL 96
GSW 111
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
CLE 113
WAS 87
Final
DET 98
LAC 104
Final
DAL 109
NYK 102
Final
ATL 115
TOR 126
Final
MIN 86
MIL 103
Final
HOU 102
SAC 89
Final
OKC 97
UTA 82
Final
SAN 106
IND 100
Final
PHO 120
DEN 112
Final
LAL 93
MEM 99
7:30pm Tonight
TEXAM
LSU
7:30pm Tonight
TEX
TCU
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
FRES 64
MAR 68
Final
CHAT 61
RMU 46
Final
EMICH 68
ROCH 35
 
Final
MRGST 51
LIB 50
 
Final
HAMP 60
AMER 64
 
Final
BEL 78
DEN 57
Final
UMASS 79
NE 54
Final
JMU 79
SHU 72
 
Final
KNST 84
SAMF 71
 
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
CHAM 60
MIZZ 74
Final
CCAR 61
LAMON 48
Final
OKLA 75
UCLA 65
Final
ELON 65
UNF 72
 
Final
UWMIL 66
ORU 69
Final
WCU 66
CHIST 61
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
BYU 85
PURD 87
Final
EVAN 79
USF 72
Final
COL 71
GTDNS 75
 
Final
VERM 73
BRY 47
 
Final
OSU 91
CAMP 64
Final
LOU 45
CLST 33
Final
UCF 69
DAVID 95
Final
IONA 126
DELST 76
 
Final
OU 78
UGST 83
Final
TOWS 97
GOUCHER 43
 
Final
ND 81
GRAM 54
 
Final
YALE 82
LAF 60
 
Final
GWU 91
LONG 66
 
Final
VT 78
UMO 63
Final
WAKE 83
MNTER 49
 
Final
NAVY 67
PSUHARRIS 42
 
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
MINN 61
STJ 70
Final
JVU 69
TRINBAPT 57
 
Final
YOUNG 66
UMKC 63
 
Final
UAB 43
WISC 72
Final
CORN 67
CAN 60
Final
WVU 103
VMI 72
Final
DEP 74
LEH 86
 
Final
UNT 67
MVSU 52
 
Final
MARS 68
MORE 77
Final
TCU 74
RAD 50
 
Final
SELA 86
TENT 65
 
Final
SMU 72
TXSOU 59
 
Final
UTAH 85
TXPA 48
Final
LMU 66
UCR 62
Final
SCAR 89
UNCA 75
 
Final
SD 86
WAYNEST 69
 
Final
PITT 70
KYST 47
Final
UWGB 59
FLGC 45
Final
IOWA 70
NILL 49
Final
ORST 69
AUB 71
Final
MONT 75
CARROLLMT 52
 
Final
SUTAH 64
EKENT 73
Final
NMST 78
FAM 33
 
Final
WYO 65
STET 41
 
Final
EWASH 81
NKENTUCKY 60
 
Final
IDST 57
WLVRN 60
 
Final
GEOR 66
UF 65
Final
GONZ 88
UGA 76
Final
NIOWA 61
NW 42
Final
CAL 72
CPSL 52
Final
UCD 77
UTST 70
Final
SDST 59
ARZ 61
Final
NDAK 75
ALAST 68
Final
CSNO 55
PORST 63
Final
AKAN 62
PAC 71
Final
OKST 73
TULSA 58
Final
COLST 76
MIZST 61
12:00pm Today
TENN
SCU
 
12:00pm Today
RMU
LAMON
 
1:00pm Today
BUT
OKLA
 
2:00pm Today
BRO
PEAY
 
2:00pm Today
UTEP
PRIN
 
2:30pm Today
CHAT
CCAR
 
2:30pm Today
RIU
KU
 
3:30pm Today
USCU
FIU
 
3:30pm Today
GEOR
WISC
 
4:00pm Today
USB
LIU
 
4:30pm Today
XAV
SDU
 
5:00pm Tonight
INDST
ILL
 
6:00pm Tonight
WRST
CSFU
 
6:00pm Tonight
STJOE
WKENT
 
6:30pm Tonight
RIDE
MSU
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
UCLA
 
8:30pm Tonight
WMICH
LBSU
 
8:30pm Tonight
GT
MARQ
 
9:00pm Tonight
PVU
STEPH
 
9:30pm Tonight
MERC
RICE
 
9:30pm Tonight
UF
UAB
 
11:00pm Tonight
WASH
SJST
 
11:59pm Tonight
MEM
BAY
 
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
WASU
 
Final
NYI 3
WAS 2
Final
BUF 1
WIN 2
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
Final
TAM 4
NYR 3
Final
DET 5
PHI 2
Final
PIT 4
TOR 3
Final
MIN 0
LOS 4
Final
COL 2
CHI 3
Final
SJS 0
CAL 2
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
EDM
 
12:30pm Today
DET
CHI
4:30pm Today
DAL
PHI
8:30pm Tonight
SFX
SEA