Rice Football continues its tour of former Southwest Conference foes, squaring off with Houston in Week 2. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Rice football fans experienced the full range of emotions last, ending with a heartbreaking thud. The Owls saw a 10-point lead vanish as they fell on the road to Arkansas.
Houston had the good fortune of playing in their own city, squaring off with Texas Tech at NRG Stadium. Houston led by as 14 points on two separate occasions, but the Cougars were outscored 28-0 in the second half. Both teams enter Week 2 with a sour taste in their mouths and plenty of motivation.
Kickoff time | 5:30 PM CT
Venue | Rice Stadium – Houston, TX
TV | CSB Sports Network
Radio | Sports Map 94.1 (FM) / Stretch Internet (Online)
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Houston this week’s episode of the Blue and Gray Preview Show, streaming live on Wednesday at Noon on the Rice Athletics YouTube channel. You can also catch the recap of last week’s game on The Roost Podcast, which should be released shortly. 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
During our preseason survey of the Rice football opponents, the significance of the Bayou Bucket was noted in a conversation with Sam and Dustin of The Scott and Holman Pawdcast on The Roost Podcast. After opening losses, both rife with reasons for each respective fanbase to voice their frustrations, this Week 2 game looms large.
For Rice, this contest is sandwiched between Power 5 opponents. And if the Owls were unable to close against Arkansas, the task won’t be any easier against Texas in Week 3. Losing this week against Houston could pave the way for an 0-3 start for a team touted as one of the program’s best in recent history.
Houston has reason to worry, too. No matter how realistic they might have been, the Cougars have conference championship expectations. Outside of Cincinnati and possibly UCF, the rest of the AAC looked decidedly underwhelming in Week 1. Houston could rise from 0-2 to challenge for a conference title, but the optics would make such an endeavor seem like wishful thinking at best. All those factors combined make for a rather significant Week 2 rivalry game.
All Time | Houston leads 31-11
Last Five | Houston leads 5-0
Last Meeting | Home 2018, Houston won 45-27
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Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Green – 12/25 (48.0 percent), 152 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing | Griffin – 13 carries, 35 yards (2.7 yards per carry)
Receiving | Pitre – 4 receptions, 97 yards (24.3 yards per reception), 1 TD / Bailey – 4 receptions, 47 yards (11.8 yds/rec)
Tackles | Montero – 11 / Chamberlain – 10 / Morrison – 9
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Smith – 1 PBU, Fresch – 1 INT
Houston Stat Notables
Passing | Tune – 27/38 (71.1 percent), 174 yards passing, 2 TD, 4 INT
Rushing | Car – 13 carries, 37 yards (2.8 yards per carry)
Receiving | Dell – 7 receptions, 80 yards (11.4 yards per reception), 1 TD / Trahan – 6 receptions, 42 yards (7.0 yds/rec)
Tackles | Mutin – 8 / Jones – 8 / S. Williams – 5
Interceptions/Pass Breakups | D. Williams / Anenih – 1 PBU, no interceptions
Houston X-Factor | Calm Tune
Houston jumped out to a 21-7 lead over Texas Tech last week but was unable to hold the early advantage thanks in large part to the play of their quarterback Clayton Tune. At one point in the game, ESPN gave the Cougars an 88.6 percent chance of victory. Then tune threw four interceptions, including one that was returned for the game-tying touchdown.
After several disjointed years marred by injuries, COVID-19 cancelations and an uncertain quarterback room, 2021 was supposed to be the year Tune put it all together. The depth chart is rather bare behind Tune. For better or worse, he’s the guy. If he turns in a similar performance against a ravenous Rice defense, Houston is going to be in for a very long day.
Rice X-Factor | First and second down
The quarterback situation is clearly at the top of the priority list for Rice, but given what we’ve seen about this team to this point and the dominance of the defense, the Owls shouldn’t need a herculean effort on that front to position themselves for a win.
No matter the trigger man, Rice has to do better on first and second down.
Rice started the Arkansas game facing third down lengths of the 8-yards, 9-yards, 3-yards, 5-yards, 14-yards, 6-yards, 8-yards and 9-yards. They converted twice.
It’s one thing to remain committed to running the football. It’s another to set yourself up to have to convert third and long too often. If Rice does that, they’re not going to find any sort of rhythm.
Pick ‘Em Contest (Subscribers only)
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Injury Report (Subscribers only)
The Roost’s 2021 Rice Football Season Preview has FIVE pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth charts, important new arrivals and positional breakdowns for every team in Conference USA sourced from local beat writers and sources on the ground who cover these teams every day. It’s the most thorough C-USA publication on the market.
One Final Thing
No definitive answer was given following the Owls’ Week 1 loss to Arkansas regarding how the quarterbacks would be deployed going forward. Head coach Mike Bloomgren is fiercely loyal, but and his staff have some hard conversations to have this week about the most important position player on the field.
Wiley Green was 12-for-25 in the opener, throwing for 152 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Luke McCaffrey was 5-for-10 for 75 yards in what amounted to two drives and a short portion of garbage time.
Given the defense Rice brings to the table, they might not need a perfect outing this week under center. But establishing some semblance of a rhythm is paramount with conference play looming soon. Bloomgren frequently preaches that teams make the biggest jump from game one to game two. They need to see that adjustment at quarterback this week.
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