Rice football has a new challenge ahead of them this week against Louisiana Tech. We break down the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball in this week’s film room.
Well, any thought that Rice football’s delayed start to the season would save of from the vagaries of scheduling in 2020 can be put to bed. With no tape from a delayed matchup with UTSA, we’ll turn our attention to this Saturday’s (scheduled for now, anyway!) opponent, Louisiana Tech. In an odd but maybe not surprising bit of symmetry, the Bulldogs also had last weekend’s game canceled due to a COVID outbreak in their opponent’s program.
Louisiana Tech’s schedule looks a lot like many C-USA teams to this point in the season: a couple of close conference wins, a shootout with Houston Baptist, and blowout losses to Marshall and BYU. Perhaps we should give some credit to Skip Holtz’s team for managing to win four of their seven games thus far while not looking especially good at any particular aspect of the game.
They’re dead last in the conference in rushing offense, with a paltry 2.8 yards per carry (that only rises to 3.7 without sacks). They’re second in passing yards per game, but average just 6.7 YPA and have been shuffling back and forth between Luke Anthony (176 attempts) and Aaron Allen (75). Overall, they’re 11th in C-USA in yards per play on offense and eighth on defense.
Their best win of the season thus far is their most recent game against UAB, which they pulled out in double overtime, 37–34. UAB is probably the best team in C-USA West and second behind Marshall in the conference as a whole, so that’s a great win—but results can be deceiving. The Blazers outgained the Bulldogs by a significant margin on both a total and per-play basis and had three turnovers to Louisiana Tech’s one.
In fact, per ESPN’s Bill Connelly, the victory over UAB was the sixth-lowest postgame win expectancy by a winning team this season*. Postgame win expectancy is a metric Bill creates by looking at the in-game stats which correlate most strongly with winning (success rates, explosive plays, and so on), then projecting a winner based only on those stats. While a game’s outcome is all that matters in the standings, for predicting a team’s performance going forward, you have to take a deeper look, beyond the final score.
*As you can see in the tweet, their earlier win over Southern Miss was the fifth-least likely win of the season. The Bulldogs are fortunate to be 4–3 instead of 2–5.
Still, it’s not wise to take any opponent lightly in this conference. So we’ll take a closer look at a play from each side of the ball in the aforementioned win over UAB to show how the Bulldogs can be dangerous.
On defense, one thing the Louisiana Tech defense does well is get picks. They’re tied for the conference lead in interceptions and have scored twice on pick-sixes, including the play we’re looking at.
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