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Hump Day Roundup

As always the great thing about 3 day weekends is the short work week that follows. And it's even better during Fall because it usually means we get to football Saturday's faster. We can start shifting our focus to next opponents now that we can finally put all the euphoria from opening weekend and the poll business behind us. Here is your Hump Day news roundup:

We will start of with Rice. Lonnie White from the LA Times has an early primer on the Owls:

Rice isn't likely to play in a football bowl game this year -- the Owls haven't since 1961 -- but they have on their nonconference schedule three teams that probably will.

After meeting UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, the lowly Owls, who have won only one of their last 18 games, will play No. 2 Texas at Reliant Stadium in Houston, then at No. 9 Florida State.

"It's no question that staying healthy is one of our biggest concerns," Todd Graham, Rice's first-year coach, said Tuesday. "It's a big challenge.... We don't have a lot of depth."

The Owls have undergone almost a complete makeover since Graham took over after last season for Ken Hatfield, who resigned after 12 seasons. Rice has new uniforms and helmets, a renovated stadium and only one football staff member -- a receptionist -- remaining from Hatfield's regime. Also, Athletic Director Bobby May and several other athletic program officials either retired or were not asked to return.

Graham, an assistant at Tulsa the last three seasons, said he knew that the job of turning Rice into a perennially competitive football school would be difficult considering the Owls' history.

Rice's last conference title in football came when it won a share of the Southwest Conference championship in 1994, a season in which it finished with a 5-6 overall record. The Owls have won or shared only seven conference titles since they began playing football in 1912.

"Changing the mind-set, that's really the most difficult thing," Graham said. "Any place that hasn't won, there's a hopeless lack of confidence. We've spent an enormous amount of energy on mental training."
Obviously this is a game UCLA should walk away with it. But that doesn't mean the team should go into the game expecting the Owls will just roll over. And as mentioned earlier this week Bruins still have a number of issues to straighten out heading into its conference opener against the Huskies in Seattle.

One of the issues to work on during the Rice game will be punt returns. Markey muffed a return last weekend against the Utes. His performance was below average. And perhaps it makes sense to have him focus on TB duties, while giving other athletes in the team a chance. With that in mind it looks like Dorrell may work in Everett in punt return duties. From the Daily News:
Receiver Marcus Everett said Dorrell spoke with him Tuesday about possibly taking over the duties after Markey muffed a punt against Utah.

"We're going to look at some people," Dorrell said. "Chris Markey is still there in the mix in terms of a safety valve, but we're going to see about getting Terrence (Austin) some reps, and Marcus Everett also is working back there, and Ryan Graves. We'll try to get a good tandem back there to work."

But Everett appears to be the favorite.

"He's been catching with me every day," Dorrell said. "He just hasn't been out there in our lineup, but we're going to give him an opportunity. He did it in high school and he would love to do it again."

Markey averaged 4.5 yards on two returns. His muff was recovered by teammate Rodney Van.

Everett, meanwhile, said he returned punts at Chaminade Prep of West Hills, even taking "three or four back to the house" his sophomore season.
Everett seems to be the favorite because of his speed and athletic abilities, but it looks like coaches are trying out two other players in the rotation.

More on the punt returning situation from the OC Register:
"Chris Markey is still there in the mix in terms of a safety valve, but we're going to see about getting Terrence (Austin) some reps, and Marcus Everett also is working back there, and Ryan Graves," Dorrell said. "We'll try to get a good tandem back there to work."

Austin, a freshman out of Long Beach Poly, was one of the favorites to land the job in fall camp. He returned eight punts as a senior in high school for an average of 19.4 yards per play and one touchdown. Dorrell said before the opener against Utah that Austin was "not ready," but that he expected at some point this season Austin could be used in that role.
Everett, Austin, Graves, whoever it is, lets hope this gets figured out soon. It was not fun watching Markey back there waiting to catch the punt after his muff. He just didn't look very comfortable, taking a peak at who was charging at him, instead of concentrating on the ball. This is one area MJD was money/automatic last year.  Again let's hope we get this situation solved soon.

Good news from the defensive side of the ball. Eric McNeal will be back in action against Rice this weekend. Looks like his situation regarding his "incomplete" grade in a summer school class has been worked out. McNeal got the passing grade. Dohn has the info. in his daily notes linked above.

On the offense, bruinbabe2000 has already mentioned Ben Olson was named Pac-10 offensive player of the week. Congrats to BO. And yes we got the memo. We will lay off "SPJ" for now. May be we will wait to hear what alcor805 has to say. Methinks Dohn is getting a little too worked up over much a do about nothing.

Meanwhile jtthirtyfour flagged this great video profile/interview of BO done by Lindsey Soto (Prime Ticket) on the Tube. Check it out.

Lastly keep an eye out on MGoBlog today. They will be coming out with the week 2 version of the blogpoll later on today. I have a feeling voters in this poll will not look as the clueless as the Coaches' poll in which Utah received 5 votes, while UCLA received none (corrected per Rye's comment).

As I mentioned last night - we just need to keep winning. We will get our due respect once we win the games we are supposed to and then pull of a big win in front of the whole nation. In other words, winning at least 8 more games and beating SC will get that done.