The Army Black Knights host the Rice Owls next Friday in Week 1 action of the 2019-20 college football season. Kickoff is set for 6:00 PM EST on August 30th at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York and the game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

Taking a look at the Week 1 college football odds, Army opened as a 24.5-point home favorite earlier this week. That line has come down a little bit after early betting, as the Black Knights are currently listed at -23.5. The total for the game is sitting at 50 points.

Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Army vs Rice

Rice struggled mightily under first year head coach Mike Bloomgren, winning only their first and last games of the season to finish with a 2-10 record overall. Bloomgren looks to have his work cut out for him again this year, as the Owls were one of the worst defensive teams in the entire country and will likely struggle to keep opponents out of the end zone yet again. However, there certainly were some bright spots on offense, as WR Aaron Cephus led what is arguably the strongest receiving unit in all of the Conference USA. Cephus, along with WR Austin Trammell and TE Jordan Myers, should help ease the growing pains for new starting quarterback Tom Stewart. Stewart will be tasked with turning things around for a passing offense that averaged just 174.8 yards per game through the air in 2018 (110th overall).

As mentioned previously, the Owls were absolutely horrendous on the defensive side of the ball last season. Not only did they give up an average of 36.0 points per game, which was 112th overall, they also allowed opponents to rack up an average of 446.1 total yards per game (103rd overall).

Army followed up an impressive 10-3 season in 2017 with an even better year, finishing 11-2 overall and successfully building on the positive momentum head coach Jeff Monken has brought since taking over. The Black Knights have high expectations yet again this year, although it remains to be seen just how well they are able to adjust to losing all but four starters on a defense that gave up an average of only 17.7 points per game (10th overall). However, the offensive side of the ball will remain relatively unchanged, as the quarterback, running back, and most of the offensive line are all returning. This certainly bodes well for a rushing attack that racked up over 312 yards per game on the ground, which was the second highest average in the entire country.

The Black Knights were extremely solid defensively, ranking inside of the Top 25 teams nationwide in most major statistical categories. However, the loss of many former starters could provide some early season growing pains, especially against the run where they have traditionally been quite strong. Although Rice certainly likes to attack opposing teams on the ground, Army has shown that they can be susceptible to big plays through the air. In 2018, they have up only 188.8 yards through the air per game, but allowed an average of more than 12.7 yards per completion.

NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: Army -23.5

While Rice can’t really look much worse than they did in 2018, I’m not expecting them to start their season on a positive note out of the gate. Not only are they on the road in Week 1, they also have to rely on a new starting quarterback who could certainly have his struggles against a solid Army defense. Despite the fact that there has a lot of turnaround for the Black Knights, the key components of their offense remain intact which should allow them to win their home opener with relative ease.

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When Army gets their ground game rolling, they are extremely tough to slow down. A matchup against a defense that allowed over 165 yards per game on the ground last season should allow the Black Knights to put plenty of points on the board. While Rice may be able to find some success through the air, the Owls prefer to run the ball which is going to be an extremely tough task against this Army defense. I think this one should be out of reach by halftime, so I’m taking the Black Knights to cover the 23.5 point spread and come away with a lopsided victory.