Rice Football returns home in Week 9 to take on Southern Miss. How to watch, stats to know, x-factor picks for both teams and more.
Neither Rice football nor Southern Miss enters Week 9 on a high note. The Owls fell on the road as favorites to an up and down UTSA squad. Southern Miss dropped a shootout to C-USA West-leading Louisiana Tech.
Both teams are hungry for a win on Saturday, with the stakes high in regards to expectations for both programs. Here’s what you need to know about both Rice and their opponent and before this Week 9 battle.
We’ll preview the Southern Miss game on Episode 13 of The Roost Podcast which will be released on Wednesday. Find us on the podcast page or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. (And consider leaving us a 5-star review while you’re at it.)
Sizing up the contenders
Close games have gone against Rice football this season. The Owls’ seven consecutive defeats have been their own doing in many respects, but they’ve played well enough in spurts to have more than one win under their belts to this point. The Owls are still hungry and should come out swinging.
Southern Miss should have some angst about this game for different reasons. The Eagles lost control of their own destiny in the C-USA West when they fell to Louisiana Tech in Week 8. That doesn’t preclude them from making the conference championship game, but it does lessen the margin of error Southern Miss has if they want to make a run. This game matters a lot to that end.
Mike Bloomgren’s first-ever C-USA game came in Hattiesburg against Southern Miss. The program has come along way since that one-sided affair. The Owls would like to prove it.
All Time | Southern Miss leads 5-4
Last Five | Southern Miss leads 4-1
Last Meeting | Away 2018, Southern Miss won 40-22
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Green – 61/116 (54.3 percent), 683 yards passing, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing | Walter – 110 carries, 504 yards (4.6 yards per carry), 5 TD
Receiving | Rozner – 32 receptions, 479 yards (15.0 yards per reception), 2 TD | Trammell – 37 receptions, 472 yards (12.8 yards per reception), 1 TD
Tackles | Alldredge – 59, Montero – 44, Chamberlain – 39
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Thornton – 5 PBU, Nyakwol/Chamberlain/Smith – 1 INT each
Southern Miss Stat Notables
Passing | Abraham – 155/220 (70.5), 2263 yards passing, 13 TD, 8 INT
Rushing | Harris – 58 carries, 282 yards (4.9 yards per carry), 3 TD
Receiving | Watkins – 26 receptions, 630 yards (24.2 yards per reception), 3 TD | Adams – 40 receptions, 445 yards (11.1 yards per reception), 2 TD
Tackles | Hembry – 51, Thomas – 50, Showers – 38
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Williams/Mitchell – 4 PBU each, Thomas/Mitchell – 2 INT each
Southern Miss X-Factor | Winning third downs on defense
Although they had their struggles through the air against Louisiana Tech, the Southern Miss defense is still regarded as one of the better units in C-USA. When they do have their less-than-perfect outings, they can usually rely on the offense to pick them up, a nice luxury to have.
And that’s where the crux of the entire Southern Miss gameplan rests. If the Eagles can get their defense off the field, they’re going to give that explosive offense opportunities.
The Rice defense has been improved through the air this season, but it isn’t quite at the level it needs to be to stop high powered arms like Abraham consistently. More possessions for Southern Miss likely mean more points. That could go by the wayside if Rice football can milk the clock and play keep away from Abraham and Co.
Rice X-Factor | Winning the turnover battle
Rice football handed away 14 points against UTSA with a pick-six and a goal line fumble. They lost by four points. The Owls’ average margin of defeat when winning the turnover battle this season is 7.5 points. Somewhat surprisingly, their margin of defeat when losing the turnover battle is -7.3.
Army and Baylor turned the ball over more times than Rice. The Owls almost won as significant underdogs thanks to the additional opportunities. Rice came just as close — even closer, actually — but gave the ball away more often than they took it against Louisiana Tech, UAB and UTSA.
It’s not unfathomable to posit Rice having another win or two had they managed to play some of their conference opponents level in the turnover department. Southern Miss turns the ball over at the third-highest rate in C-USA. Rice must capitalize.
Rice left the UTSA game more banged up than they’ve been at any point this season. Austin Walter, Naeem Smith and Andrew Bird all left the game for some duration of time with injuries. Their status for this weekend’s game against Southern Miss, as well as updates for other key players is available in the latest injury update.
The Roost’s 2019 Rice Football Season Preview has four pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth chart, important new arrivals and depth chart breakdowns for each foe. Better yet, it’s not just speculation, each profile was created with insight from local experts who cover those teams day in and day out. Pick up your copy today and get four pages and more than 1,000 words on every foe.
Pick ‘Em Contest
If you haven’t yet, make sure you submit your entry for The Roost’s weekly pick’em challenge. Choose an answer to each of the six questions below and submit them on the forum thread to enter.
- Will Rice score on their opening drive of the game?
Yes / No
- How many points will Rice allow?
Over 29.5 / Under 29.5
- Will Rice win the turnover battle?
Yes (or tie) / No
- How many sacks will the Rice defense register?
Over 2.5 / Under 2.5
- In which quarter will Rice score the most points? (ties count as correct picks)
Q1 / Q2 / Q3 / Q4
- Who wins?
Rice / Southern Miss
One Final Thing
As uncomfortable as the loss which Rice suffered last weekend to UTSA felt, Saturday is a new day. And the reality is this: no team in Conference USA is unbeatable. The top and the bottom of this conference are remarkably more close together than many would care to admit.
Rice football has proven themselves more likely to play up to their better competition than in years past. The need for a victory hasn’t dissipated inside the walls at South Main, but the pressure to get over the hump hasn’t proved overwhelming either. This is a winnable game. They all are. But Rice is going to have to play a lot better than they did against UTSA if they want to have a shot.