From all of us here in Sydney, we are hoping for the continued safety of all of our family, friends and fellow Owls on the Rice campus through this weekend and coming days. We have all been monitoring the continuing evolution of Hurricane Harvey, which is now a tropical storm. This morning Australian national television news shows were reporting on the storm, so the storm is widely known by Aussies we run into. They have been great hosts to us, and their sympathetic words have meant a lot.
The Owls completed their prep Saturday. The program will open its 106th season as the "home" team here in Sydney when they face Stanford at noon Sunday (Saturday at 9 p.m. CDT U.S.). The game will be televised nationally in the United States on ESPN. For the first time, the players visited the venue where the game will be played, Allianz Stadium, and took to the turf to get acquainted and participate in a team walkthrough. There were no other scheduled public team events.
We have had very good weather in Sydney all week. It has been sunny with the highs in the low 60s. That could change tomorrow, as forecasters are calling for a 70 percent chance of rain; however, right now it looks like the rain might hold off until the end of the game.
Saturday night Rice Owls alumni, donors and fans gathered on the 32nd floor of the InterContinental Sydney hotel's Supper Club bar, where they socialized and took in some breathtaking views high above the Sydney Harbour and the city.
Rice versus Stanford
This is the sixth meeting between Rice and Stanford. Rice leads the all-time series 3-2, thanks to wins in the first three games (34-7 in Houston in 1957; 30-7 at Stanford in 1958 and 17-7 at Rice Stadium in 1963). The Cardinal won 34-7 at home in 1964 and 41-17 last season in Stanford.
Rice did not face Stanford for 52 years, but will be facing them in consecutive games after closing the 2016 season with a loss at Stanford. This will mark the third time in school history the Owls have opened a season against the same team they had played in the final game of the previous year. Rice and Houston closed the 1982 campaign and then kicked off the 1983 season. The two schools duplicated it again in 2005-2006.
Coach David Bailiff announced within the past two weeks that
redshirt freshman Sam Glaesmann will make the start as quarterback against
Stanford. He will become the first redshirt freshman to start an opener for the
Owls since Taylor McHargue opened the 2010 season versus Texas at Reliant
Stadium. He said recently that you have to "find a moment or two to step back and soak it all in."
Who is back for the Owls?
Rice returns a total of 13 players who made the majority of the starts from last year, in addition to a 14th player who was a starter in 2015 before missing last season, due to an injury,
Rice returns eight defensive starters in addition to cornerback Justin Bickham, who earned C-USA All-Freshman honors in 2015 before suffering an injury in training camp prior to the '16 season. He joins linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee, the preseason C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, defensive tackle Preston Gordon, defensive ends Blain Padget and Brian Womac, corner V.J. Banks, and safeties J.T. Ibe and Destri White. Seniors Peter Godber and Trey Martin lead the five returning members of the Owls offensive line, which includes Calvin Anderson, Sam Pierce and Corey Klingler. Running back Sam Stewart is not officially listed as a returning starter, due to his being limited to just four starts because of injuries last year.
Rice safety Christian Bertrand will celebrate his 20th birthday when he takes the field against Stanford Aug. 27, but his family in Houston will be hours from celebrating it, because kickoff will be at 9 p.m. on the 26th back home.