The rivalry between UH and Rice is overstated. The geographic location between the two universities breeds familiarity, but there is little hostility between Cougars and Owls.
Neither school is mentioned in the other’s fight song, and the annual Bayou Bucket usually isn’t a game that defines the season. The deepest the rivalry goes is a few off-hand remarks on T-shirts.
Against Rice, UH owns an all-time record of 26-11, and has won four of the last six matchups. The No. 18 Cougars (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) have several advantages over the Owls (2-5, 1-3), but with the recent back-and-forth history, at least it appears to be competitive on the field.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Cougars lost 56-42 to the Owls at Rice Stadium in 2008, but dominated them with a 73-14 victory in 2009 at Robertson Stadium.
Sumlin is 1-2 overall against Rice. The Cougars lost to the Owls in heart-breaking fashion last season by rallying from a 20-point deficit, only to go down to the wire and lose.
But of course, quarterback Case Keenum did not play because of his season-ending injury. He had to helplessly watch the Cougars lose to their cross-town rival — likely a memory he hasn’t forgotten.
For fans, this year’s Bayou Bucket should be considered the second-most important grudge match after UCLA. Last season Rice beat UH in baseball, men’s basketball and football in a clean sweep, and that should mean something to Cougar Nation.
Despite close proximity, the identities of UH and Rice could not be more different academically and athletically. UH is a public school with a strong tradition in basketball, football and track and field. Rice is a private institution with a perennially dominant baseball program.
With as much hype as there is for the football team, there should be a more fun, student-involved atmosphere. Instead, it just looks like another less-than stellar opponent on the Cougars’ schedule. Given the unpredictability of conference realignment, this has the potential to be one of the last times UH and Rice play.
Today’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Robertson Stadium, and will be televised on Fox Sports.