Rice football closes out the regular season against North Texas still in search of win number six. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
North Texas was on bye last weekend. Rice football might have wished they were. The Owls were rocked on Senior Day, losing their starting quarterback to injury for the second week in a row. Now they’re headed to Denton, still in search of their sixth win to clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014. Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s game.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs North Texas on this week’s episode of the Blue and Gray Preview Show, streaming live on Wednesday at Noon on the Rice Athletics YouTube channel. Look for a recap of the game on the site afterward as well as on The Roost Podcast, which should be released early next week. 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
North Texas still has a great chance to make the Conference USA Championship Game. By virtue of their win over Western Kentucky earlier this year, they would make the title game with a victory on Saturday or with a Florida Atlantic loss to Western Kentucky. On the other side, Rice wants to secure a bowl trip. Both sides have plenty to play for in this one
All Time | North Texas leads, 7-5
Last Five | North Texas leads, 4-1
Last Meeting | Home 2021, North Texas won 30-24
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Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | McMahon – 160/266 (60.2 percent), 2102 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT
Rushing | Montgomery – 75 carries, 449 yards (6.0 yards per carry), 0 TD / Otoviano – 51 carries, 297 yards (5.8 yards per carry), 1 TD
Receiving | Rozner – 39 receptions, 806 yards (20.7 yds/rec), 9 TDs / McCaffrey – 51 receptions, 656 yards (12.9 yds/rec), 6 TD / Esdale – 34 receptions, 392 yards (11.5 yds/rec), 0 TD
Tackles | Conti – 63 / Morrison – 58 / Taylor – 50
Pass Breakups | Dunbar – 7 / Taylor – 6 / Fresch – 5
Interceptions | Taylor, Morrison – 2 / Nyakwol, Chamberlain, Fresch, Narcisse – 1
North Texas Stat Notables
Passing | Aune – 185/321 (57.6 percent), 2912 yards, 29 TD, 11 INT
Rushing | Adeyi – 86 carries, 696 yards (8.0 yards per carry), 4 TD / Adaway III – 118 carries, 583 yards (4.9 ypc), 5 TD
Receiving | Burns – 34 receptions, 628 yards (18.5 yards per reception), 1 TD / Shorter – 19 receptions, 505 yards (26.6 yds/rec), 8 TD
Tackles | Davis – 105 / Nixon III – 74 / Richards – 67
Pass Breakups | Texada – 15 / Gaddie – 10 / Wilson – 5
Interceptions | Texada – 3 / Wilson – 2 / Whitlock, Wood – 1
North Texas X-Factor | Be aggressive
Rice football is the most turnover-prone team in Conference USA and they don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Extra possessions tend to result in more points and against a team like the Owls that have struggled to be consistent on that side of the ball, it spells opportunity. If North Texas attacks on defense and forces the issues, Rice has shown to make mistakes.
That could result in some big plays for the Owls when the Mean Green decide to take those risks, but entering into a potential shootout against this Rice team would likely just open the door for more turnover opportunities.
It doesn’t have to be reckless, but anything North Texas can do to confuse whoever Rice has a quarterback or punch out a ball when a ball carrier keeps it too far away could prove to be differential. Short fields continue to burn the Owls and there’s no reason to believe they’ve proven immune to this issue in a week’s time.
Rice X-Factor | Make the Mean Green throw
North Texas is 6-5 this season, but there’s been a consistent pattern in their wins: they don’t throw the football. In four of their six wins, North Texas has attempted fewer than 30 passes, completing 16 passes or fewer. They’ve won two pass-happy games (vs FIU, at WKU) both of which were blowouts in which North Texas could do whatever they wanted to on offense.
On the other side of the coin, the difference is stark. North Texas averaged 35 attempts in their five losses this year (vs 27 attempts in their wins). They complete 50.1 percent of their passes in losses vs 63.8 percent of their passes in wins.
North Texas wants to run the football. That’s going to be Plan A. The teams that get them off-script usually win. That’s exactly what the Owls need to do.
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One Final Thing
On the bowl front, Rice is in with a win. However, there’s still a possibility Rice goes bowling with a loss. Stay tuned for more on how that would work later in the week. As for this game, a win is still well within reach.
The last two losses have two common threads for Rice football. First, they’ve been plated with a platoon at quarterback with the expected starter knocked out of the game before halftime. Second, they’ve been against two of the top three teams in the conference standings. The latter won’t change this coming week — North Texas is currently tied with Western Kentucky in the standings — but Rice will probably (knock on wood) get a quarterback through a complete game… right?
Whether it’s McMahon, Green, or someone else, building an offense around one guy and letting him execute it has worked this season for Rice more often than it’s not. In games in which Rice has not had its starting quarterback leave with an injury, the Owls are 5-3. They’re 0-3 when they lose their starter.
Ideally, it’s McMahon back under center next weekend. But even if it’s not, riding one arm through a full four quarters will give this team a better shot. As for who that is? That’s still to be determined.
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