When the Rice Owls meet the Air Force Falcons for the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl, it will be a matchup of two 6-6 teams that viewers may not be inclined to watch.
But there are plenty of reasons to watch these two resilient teams square off, and the fact that each have similar strengths makes the outcome that much harder to predict. In the quandary of having to decide, it will be the home state Owls who will extend their winning streak to five on December 29 in Amon Carter Stadium.
Yes, that means that Rice started the season just 2-6 and had to win its final four games just to become bowl eligible. The Falcons, meanwhile, started off 5-3 and only lost by five points at Michigan in the second week of the season.
Unfortunately the strong play didn't keep up, as Air Force lost three of its last four in blowout fashion.
A trend emerged from those losses, too. When senior RB Cody Getz ran for less than 100 yards, the Falcons would get blown out. Only once has Air Force won when Getz failed to crack triple digits on the ground, and that was a one-point victory at Wyoming.
Although the Owls aren't a very strong rush defense, they should be able to stop Air Force well enough while having success of their own. As R.J. Rico of Sports Illustrated points out, both rank in the 90s nationally in that statistic.
Rice's balance on offense is going to be the big difference in this one. Despite the fact that the Falcons boast the 28th-ranked pass defense (h/t NCAA.com), they give up a completion rate of over 67 percent.
That's where the Owls will give them trouble—bear with me on this one—courtesy of an MC duo to envy.
QB Taylor McHargue will look frequently to WR Sam McGuffie in the slot and have great success. The senior wideout leads Rice with 49 receptions, and is extremely dangerous in space. With Air Force's tendency to give up throws underneath, McGuffie will be extremely difficult to stop after the catch.
Who will win the Armed Forces Bowl?
Perhaps best known for the hurdles that highlighted his high school game tape, McGuffie started out as a running back at the University of Michigan.
Unfortunately, he transferred after sustaining three concussions his freshman year. Now, the senior has converted his talents to become a productive receiver on the inside for Rice.
McHargue is truly a dual-threat, leading the Owls with 11 passing touchdowns and also 11 rushing touchdowns.
Air Force has a relentless wishbone rushing attack that is second in the nation, but has proven to be ineffective and unable to gain the advantage in time of possession when Getz gets shut down.
As long as the Owls pay special attention to Getz and don't get thrown too off guard by rare passes from Connor Dietz, they should cap off an improbable winning season in 2012 against the recently struggling Falcons.