August 28, 2014

RICE (0-0) at No. 17 NOTRE DAME (0-0), 3:30 p.m. (NBC)

Line: Notre Dame by 21

Series Record: Notre Dame leads 4-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Rice, coming off its first outright league title since 1957 and its second 10-win season since 2008, opens at Notre Dame and at No. 21 Texas A&M. Coach David Bailiff says the Owls want victories, but the bigger goal is to get better so they can defend their Conference USA title. Notre Dame is seeking a College Football Playoff berth and a loss here likely would end those hopes.

KEY MATCHUP

Rice cornerback Bryce Callahan vs. Notre Dame receivers. Callahan led Conference USA with six interceptions as a freshman, and as a junior last year added three interceptions and led the Owls with 10 pass breakups. With DaVaris Daniels out for the game, one of four Irish players being investigated for possible academic cheating, the Irish have no returning players who had more than 15 catches last season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Rice: QB Driphus Jackson rallied Rice to wins over Kansas last season and over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in 2012. After three years on the sideline, the Owls are Jackson's team and Bailiff believes he is ready to run the up-tempo offense.

Notre Dame: QB Everett Golson is back after missing the 2013 because of academic impropriety. Coach Brian Kelly said Golson rode the bus to the national title game in 2012. The Irish are counting on Golson to drive the bus this time, hoping his arm, running ability and knowledge of the offense will give Kelly the potent offense Irish fans have been waiting to see since he arrived in 2010.

FACTS & FIGURES

Kelly says the Irish need to score more points. The Irish haven't averaged more than 30 points a game since Charlie Weis' last season in 2009 and have scored 30 or more at home only twice the past two seasons. ... Rice has lost 21 straight to ranked opponents since beating BYU 27-14 in 1997. ...FieldTurf debuts at Notre Dame Stadium. ... The Owls have lost five straight season-openers since beating SMU 56-27 in 2008.

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