By Chuck Pool (firstname.lastname@example.org) - The Rice Owls will open their 2016 college football home schedule in front of a prime time national audience when they host the Baylor Bears at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 16 on ESPN.
The game was moved from September 17 to accommodate a request from ESPN as part of the network's new contract with Conference USA, which was announced on Wednesday along with affiliations with CBS College Sports, the American Sports Network and beIN.
"Moving the Baylor game to a prime time slot on ESPN gives us a tremendous national platform to showcase the debut of the Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center as a centerpiece in our efforts to grow our brand," Rice Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard said.
While the Owls will move into the Patterson Center at the start of training camp, the home opener with Baylor will mark the debut of a vastly upgraded fan experience at Rice Stadium thanks to the new video board and sound system that were part of the project.
"Our fans have been following the progress of the Patterson Center all along the way, and I can't meet with any group without them expressing their pride and excitement about its completion," Karlgaard noted. "I know they can't wait to bring friends to Rice Stadium this season."
The former longtime rivals in the Southwest Conference will meet for the 80th time and for the second consecutive year. Baylor finished 13th in the final AP poll last season after a 10-3 campaign. With a season-ending assignment at Stanford, which ended last year ranked third, Rice is one of only four FBS schools who have a pair of 2015 top 15 teams on its schedule, joining SMU, Oklahoma and USC.
This will mark Rice's first regular season appearance on ESPN at Rice Stadium since the 2008 opener with SMU, when the Owls romped to a 56-27 win. ESPN also broadcast the 2013 Conference USA Championship game when the Owls defeated Marshall 42-24.
The national-televised home opener with Baylor is the first of six on the 2016 home slate which features appearances by four additional teams from the state of Texas (North Texas, Prairie View A&M, UTSA and UTEP) in addition to a C-USA match-up with Florida Atlantic.
Season ticket packages are now available online by clicking here or by calling the Rice Athletics Ticket Office at (713) 348-OWLS. For additional ticket and game day information for the 2016 football season, please visit the football ticket page.