Rice Owls vs. Air Force Falcons (-3, 61.5)
WHEN: 11:45 AM ET, Saturday, December 29, 2012
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL STORYLINES
1. Rice and Air Force enter the contest with mediocre records, but they took differing routes to get there. The Owls won four in a row and five of their last six contests to secure a berth in their first bowl game since 2008. Playing the final 10 weeks without a break, the exhausted Falcons were outscored 124-66 en route to losing three of their last four to limp toward the end of the season.
2. Ironically, Air Force attacks on the ground with its one-dimension offense. Led by diminutive senior Cody Getz (1,219 yards, nine touchdowns), coach Troy Calhoun's triple-option offense averages 328.8 rushing yards - a gaudy number which ranks second-best in the nation. Considering that Rice yields nearly 193 rushing yards per game, the Owls could be in for a long day.
3. Rice's offense features a more balanced game plan as junior quarterback Taylor McHargue has both thrown and rushed for 11 touchdowns this season. Charles Ross is averaging a team-best 5.7 yards per carry and 743 yards total. The Owls amassed 381 points and 5,053 yards of total offense - with both numbers ranking behind only the 2008 club in program history.
TV: 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: Air Force opened as low as +1 and has since been bet up to -3. The total has moved from as low as 60.5 to 62 points.
CONSENSUS: 65 percent of Covers Consensus picks are on Air Force while 53 percent are on the over.
WEATHER: The forecast in Forth Worth is calling for clear skies and temperatures in the low 40s. Winds are expected to blow NNW at 6 mph.
* Owls are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Falcons are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 vs. CUSA.
* Under is 7-3 in Owls' last 10 non-conference games.
* Under is 6-2 in Falcons' last eight games overall.
ABOUT RICE (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA, 7-4-1 ATS): Cody Bauer, among others, will be charged with deciphering the triple-option offense. Bauer leads the Owls in tackles for loss and is tied with fellow defensive end Jared Williams for the team lead with 5.5 sacks. Offensively, Jordan Taylor (48 receptions, 673 yards) and Sam McGuffie (49, 523) have proven consistent for McHargue. In addition, first team All-Conference USA selection Vance McDonald has come on strong since returning from a toe injury. Rice will be playing in its third bowl game since a postseason drought from 1961-2006. The Owls won their last bowl appearance in 2008 by taking the Texas Bowl.
ABOUT AIR FORCE (6-6, 5-3 Mountain West, 3-9 ATS): While the rushing attack secures the headlines, Ty MacArthur is traditionally the one responsible when Air Force takes to the air. The junior wideout has a team-high 411 receiving yards and two scores - although he has matched the touchdown total and surpassed the yardage (419) on the ground. Air Force has won five of the last six meetings between the former WAC members, although the last encounter took place in 1998. The Falcons, who will be playing in their school-record sixth consecutive bowl game, have plenty of experience playing in the Armed Forces Bowl. After dropping its first two appearances, Air Force posted a 47-20 triumph over Houston in the recent meeting in 2009.