Rice Football looks to rebound from a disappointing loss with a home win over UTEP. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
The next game can’t come fast enough for Rice football. The Owls are eager to put last weekend’s road loss to North Texas behind them and shake off whatever rust lingered from the back-t0-back postponed games in the weeks prior. Rice looked rattled and far from the dominant form they displayed in their win over Southern Miss.
UTEP wasn’t in action last weekend, losing a game against UAB (scheduled to take place on Friday morning in Midland, TX) because of COVID-19 concerns among the Blazers. Last time out, UTEP was outgunned by UTSA, falling 52-21 in San Antonio.
We’ll preview Rice football vs UTEP on Episode 62 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 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 has swung between extremes so far this season, but can get back to .500 on the season with a win against UTEP. The remaining weeks of their schedule are still a bit up in the air with postponed games against UTSA and Louisiana Tech possible candidates to replace a road trip to Marshall on Dec. 5. Before they get there, Rice has to control what’s in front of them, and this weekend, that’s scheduled to be UTEP.
UTEP wants so desperately to rebound from an unfavorable start to conference play. The 3-win Miners haven’t won four games in a season since 2016. Doing so in a shortened year would be a tremendous step forward for Dana Dimel’s bunch.
All Time | Rice leads 15-8
Last Five | Rice leads 3-2
Last Meeting | Away 2019, Rice won 30-16
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Collins – 53/86 (61.6 percent), 802 yards passing, 10 TD, 1 INT
Rushing | Otoviano – 45 carries, 195 yards (4.3 yards per carry) | Griffin – 41 carries, 159 yards (3.9 yards per carry)
Receiving | Trammell – 16 receptions, 335 yards (20.9 yards per reception), 6 TD | Myers – 14 receptions, 138 yards (9.9 yards per reception)
Tackles | Alldredge – 32, Montero – 23, Garcia – 19
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Calderon – 2 PBU / McCord – 1 INT
UTEP Stat Notables
Passing | Hardison – 108/199 (54.3 percent), 1419 yards passing, 5 TD, 5 INT
Rushing | Hankins – 99 carries, 493 yards (5.0 yards per carry), 7 TD
Receiving | Cowing – 36 receptions, 573 yards (15.9 yards per reception), 1 TD | Garrett – 36 receptions, 498 yards (13.8 yards per reception), 3 TD
Tackles | Forester – 56, Knight – 43, Harrell/Inyang/Prince – 32
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Amaewhule – 8 PBU / Lowe – 2 INT
UTEP X-Factor | Capitalize on opportunities
Turnovers and self-inflicted wounds have proven to be fatal flaws in each of Rice’s losses to date. The Owls haven’t played a turnover-free game yet. UTEP hasn’t been productive on that front this year. The Miners are averaging just one turnover per game and nearly one and a half giveaways themselves, but recent history suggests they’ll have more opportunities handed to them by Rice — what will they do with those chances?
UTEP enters the game second-to-last in conference play in total offense, averaging less than 300 yards per game. Even North Texas had trouble at times when it came to driving the length of the field against the Rice defense. UTEP’s best chance of putting up points will be to take advantage of opportunities Rice hands to them. And when they get their chances, they need to turn them into touchdowns.
Rice X-Factor | Win in the trenches
When Rice wins on the offensive and defensive lines, they’re going to be in a position to win. Through three games, that’s happened more often than not. There is no Dion Novil in the defensive trenches for UTEP and the Rice front seven won’t be pulling double duty to support coverage threats on the outside. There shouldn’t be any reason why Rice can’t win on both fronts.
Rice is still without a rushing touchdown this year, an odd occurrence considering they’ve run the ball a conference-high 43.4 times per game. The Owls’ woeful 3.1 yards per carry has also been problematic. A kick start from one of their talented running backs and consistent lanes to run through will help them set the tone in this game.
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.
- Will either team score on defense or special teams?
Yes / No
- How many combined touchdown passes with be thrown (both teams)?
Three or less / Four or more
- Does Rice rush for at least one touchdown?
Yes / No
- How many total yards will the Rice defense allow?
Over 330.5 / Under 330.5
- Which team defense forces the first turnover?
Rice / UTEP / No turnovers
- Who wins?
Rice / UTEP
One Final Thing
How Rice football lost to North Texas was almost more concerning than the defeat itself. Rice just wasn’t ready for what the Mean Green threw at them and failed to get things going on offense until time had run out. When this team is on, they’ve proven they can be dangerous. Now they need to prove they have the fortitude to respond to adversity and win a very winnable game.
This upcoming weekend also marks the end of November. With the Conference USA Championship game four weeks away and bowl season beginning on the same day, Rice is running out of opportunities to play football this fall. They simply have to make every Saturday count.