The Sweep

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Rice wide receivers Jarett Dillard (above) and James Casey haven't had much trouble getting open all season long.
Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon SMI

Western Michigan (9-3) vs. Rice (9-3)
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET, NFL Network

 
Reason To Watch: Not only does Rice average 327.8 passing yards a game, but many of the Owls can solve for the velocity of the resultant trajectory vector for every pass that leaves quarterback Chase Clement's hand. Unfortunately for the Owls, Rice defenders also will have to do some quick calculations to defend passes from Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller, who has thrown for 3,527 yards and 34 touchdowns.
 
Keep An Eye On: The Rice receiving tandem of Jarett Dillard and James Casey. If Michael Crabtree was the best receiver in the state of Texas this season, Dillard and Casey could be Nos. 2A and 2B. The pair combined to average 203.4 receiving yards a game and caught 31 touchdown passes.
 
Sponsor Roulette: This is only the third Texas Bowl, but a bowl game has been played in Houston every year since 2000. It all began with the galleryfurnture.com Bowl, which, contrary to popular belief, was not sponsored by some fly-by-night Web site. Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, the owner of a local furniture store, thought he could drum up more business by sponsoring a bowl game. His plan succeeded, but he balked when the bowl asked for more money to continue the sponsorship. Mattress Mack has stayed involved in football, though. In 2006, he threatened to redirect a $1 million donation from the North Texas football program to the music school if North Texas officials didn't name their practice facility after Darrell Dickey -- the coach they'd just fired.
 
Final Analysis: Western Michigan rang up wins against Illinois and eventual MAC champion Buffalo, and the Broncos are trying to bounce back from a season-ending loss at Ball State that cost them a trip to the MAC title game. Rice closed its season with six consecutive wins and will play only 3.3 miles from campus.
 
The Pick: Rice 68, Western Michigan 60 (3OT). Plan on plenty of offense, and -- with any luck -- multiple overtimes. Expect Dillard or Casey to score the winning touchdown for Rice.

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