Rice Football hopes to get back on the field this weekend in Denton against North Texas. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
It’s been a long while since either Rice football or North Texas played a football game. The Owls have been off (unintentionally) for two consecutive weekends, losing games against UTSA and Louisiana Tech because of COVID-19 concerns within their respective programs.
Things haven’t been much better for North Texas. Off weekends and COVID-19 complications have forced the Mean Green into a break that stretches back all the way to October 17 against Middle Tennessee, the week before the Blue Raiders visited the Owls in Houston. That’s four weekends in a row without a game.
We’ll preview Rice football vs North Texas on Episode 61 of The Roost Podcast which will be released on Thursday. 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.)
Make sure you check out Inside the Hedges, a weekly show with myself and former Rice football quarterback Taylor McHargue. Watch it live on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. here or watch it at your leisure on the Rice Athletics Youtube page.
Join the Conversation
What are your keys to victory this week? What pitfalls must the Owls avoid? Did you like that third down call? Share your thoughts on the matchup on the forum and make sure you tune in Saturday for our live game blog keeping track of every score and key moment.
Sizing up the contenders
Rice looked to have shaken off the rust in a big way when they blew out Southern Miss in Hattiesburg in their last game before a string of last-minute postponements. When they have been on the field, they’ve been playing well. Rice has won four of their last five games, dating back to last year. They just want a chance to extend that streak further into 2020. A win over North Texas would help solidify their up-and-coming surge is legitimate.
North Texas is coming at things from a very different angle. The Mean Green are 2-3 and haven’t been able to stop anyone on defense. Head coach Seth Littrell has been praised for his quarterback development, but the dreams of perennial C-USA contention could be falling by the wayside. Back-to-back losses to Rice would certainly knock them further from that rosy expectation.
All Time | Series tied 5-5
Last Five | North Texas leads 3-2
Last Meeting | Home 2019, Rice won 20-14
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Collins – 30/52 (57.7 percent), 475 yards passing, 8 TD, 1 INT
Rushing | Otoviano – 45 carries, 195 yards (4.3 yards per carry)
Receiving | Trammell – 10 receptions, 219 yards (21.9 yards per reception), 5 TD | Myers – 6 receptions, 65 yards (10.8 yards per reception)
Tackles | Alldredge – 21, Montero – 17, Garcia – 13
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Devones – 1 PBU / McCord – 1 INT
North Texas Stat Notables
Passing | Aune – 76/137 (55.5 percent), 1233 yards passing, 8 TD, 4 INT | Bean – 27/44 (61.4 percent), 427 yards passing, 6 TD, 1 INT
Rushing | Torrey – 67 carries, 444 yards (6.6 yards per carry), 4 TD
Receiving | Darden – 46 receptions, 689 yards (15.0 yards per reception), 10 TD | Simpson – 16 receptions, 328 yards (20.5 yards per reception), 3 TD
Tackles | Davis – 34, Sanders – 28, Nixon III – 28
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Whitlock – 3 PBU / Sanders, Johnson – 1 INT
North Texas X-Factor | No self-inflicted wounds
North Texas has won two games this season, both of which required the Mean Green to score 50+ points with their opponents crossing the 30-point plateau. This is a team that is going to have to win shootouts and put up points in bunches. This offense has been productive for several seasons under Littrell and hasn’t shown signs of stopping yet.
If anything can slow them down, it’s their own mistakes. North Texas has lost the turnover battle in all five of their games this year. They turned the ball over three times in their loss to Southern Miss and three times in a win over Middle Tennessee.
Scoring 50 points a game isn’t easy to do, no matter how frequently you’ve done it in the past. Upping the ante by spotting the other team extra possessions makes it even harder. If North Texas is going to win, they have to limit the free possessions they hand to Rice. The Owls, who milked 13 minutes of clock in the fourth quarter against Southern Miss, might just not give the ball back.
Rice X-Factor | Pound the Rock
The easiest way to contain an explosive offense is by keeping them off the field. That should be fairly easy for the Owls to do given the putrid state of the North Texas run defense. The Mean Green are allowing 5.6 yards per carry, the worst in Conference USA. Their opponents have averaged 243.2 yards per game.
Rice has multiple running backs they trust to run with power and fall forward for extra yards. If North Texas can’t get them down at or behind the line of scrimmage, the Rice offense is going to continue to operate at a pace similar to their first two games.
Quarterback Mike Collins has proven he can distribute the ball and move the team downfield quickly, but allowing him to remain poised and work at a more comfortable pace will only aid his efficiency. Rice is a team committed to running the football. There’s no reason for them to let up this weekend.
Injury Report (Subscribers only)
The Roost’s 2020 Rice Football Season Preview has four pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth charts, important new arrivals and depth chart breakdowns for every team in Conference USA. 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.
- Which team scores the first rushing touchdown?
Rice / North Texas (or neither)
- How many total points are scored?
Over 64.5 / Under 64.5
- Which team registers the most first downs?
Rice / North Texas (or tie)
- How many players throw a pass in this game
Over 2.5 / Under 2.5
- How many Rice wide receivers catch at least three passes?
One / Two / Three / Four or more
- Who wins?
Rice / North Texas
One Final Thing
At this point, getting to Saturday will be a win. Both of these teams are chomping at the bit to get back onto the field, especially Rice, which is one of only five C-USA teams that hasn’t been the at-fault party for a postponement since they began their season in late October.
This was a tight game last year, decided on a violent fourth-down pass breakup by Treshawn Chamberlain in the endzone to save the day. Building on that monumental play with a winning streak over a conference opponent would be huge for this team which believes they’ve turned the corner. All they want now is a chance to prove it.
Hopefully that chance comes on Saturday against North Texas.
- CUSA Media Day Roundup: All eyes on the Rice football offense
- The Roost Podcast | Ep 83 – Realignment and Rice Football with Shehan Jeyarajah
- Olympian Ariana Ince, a fitting ambassador of Rice Athletics, on and off the field
- Rice Baseball: 2021 MiLB Owls mid-July update