Rice football visits Tulsa in an important conference game on Thursday. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
It was a good time for a bye for both Rice football and Tulsa. The Owls and Golden Hurricanes both fell to .500 last time out with Rice dropping a home game to UConn and Tulsa losing at Florida Atlantic. Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s matchup between Rice and Tulsa.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Tulsa 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.
Sizing up the contenders
The middle of the pack is expansive in the AAC standings right now with Rice and Tulsa each sitting squarely in the midst of the mess. With games upcoming against some of the conference’s more formidable opponents, this midweek, prime-time matchup will be a golden opportunity to get back above .500 and notch a conference win before the games get tougher. It might not actually be a must-win for bowl hopes, but it sure feels like it for both sides.
All Time | Tulsa leads, 10-8-1
Last Five | Tulsa leads, 4-1
Last Meeting | Away 2013, Rice won 30-27
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Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | Daniels – 131/206 (63.6 percent), 1831 yards, 15 TD, 5 INT
Rushing | Connors – 51 carries, 180 yards (4.4 yards per carry), 1 TD / Otoviano – 38 carries, 127 yards (3.3 yards per carry), 2 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 30 receptions, 514 yards (17.1 yds/rec), 6 TDs / MacNeill – 18 receptions, 236 yards (13.1 yds/rec), 2 TD
Tackles | Wyatt – 43 / Conti, Morrison – 38 / Taylor – 32
Pass Breakups | Fresch, Taylor – 5 / Wyatt, Jean – 3
Interceptions | Devones, Conti – 1
Tulsa Stat Notables
Passing | Williams – 62/102 (60.8 percent), 955 yards, 8 TD, 7 INT
Rushing | Watkins – 93 carries, 367 yards (3.9 yards per carry), 2 TD / Ford – 58 carries, 240 yards (4.1 ypc), 1 TD
Receiving | Williams – 19 receptions, 274 yards (14.4 yards per reception), 2 TD / Shoulders – 16 receptions, 283 yards (17.7 yds/rec), 5 TD
Tackles | Ray – 56 / Simon – 30 / Oliver – 28
Pass Breakups | Oliver – 4 / Kulkin – 3 / Seven others tied with 1
Interceptions | Oliver – 3 / Four others tied with 1
Tulsa X-Factor | Keep moving the sticks
Tulsa leads the AAC with a blistering 46.7 percent conversion rate on third down, a mark that ranks among the best rates nationally. It’s been imperative for this team to be that efficient on offense, given a defense that has been vulnerable to the big play. So far this season, they’ve more or less delivered on their side of the bargain even without compiling as many points as they might have hoped.
Improving their time of possession, which is currently in the middle of the pack among AAC teams, would be nice, but continuing to rack up first downs is what will allow this team to be productive on both sides of the ball. In this game, it would also keep the Owls’ offense on the sideline, something that would absolutely be in the Golden Hurricanes’ best interest.
Rice X-Factor | Protect the football, please
Everything was going according to plan until a four-turnover disaster for Rice football last time out against UConn. The Owls had given the ball away six times all season, the second-fewest in the AAC, prior to that game. Had it not been for the myriad of mistakes, they probably would have beaten the Huskies and the discourse surrounding this team is different.
Thus, holding onto the football because the unmistakable focal point for the team this week. Winning on the road is hard enough when you’re spotting opponents extra possessions. The good version of this team can probably overcome a mistake here or there, but the erratic version the Owls are currently fielding as they work through consistency issues simply has to hold on to the rock.
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One Final Thing
Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren is oft to say something to this effect: things are never as good as you think they are or as bad as you think they are. While it’s hard to see the optimistic, glass-half-full perspective coming off the loss to UConn, the underlying capabilities of this team don’t feel drastically different than they were two weeks ago.
JT Daniels is still the quarterback, and now he’s two weeks healthier than he was in that disastrous game. Luke McCaffrey is still poised for a ridiculous, clutch play at any moment. With both of those advantages, even more moderate improvements from the special teams and the defense should be enough to give Rice a chance against whoever lines up against them in the coming weeks.
Games like they played against UConn sap the faith of the fanbase, deservedly so. There’s no denying trust has to be rebuilt as the team begins the second half of their season.
Tulsa is far from the best the AAC has to offer, making this week’s test particularly important. If the team can find a way to win this one on the road, regardless of how impressive the victory looks, they’ll restore some of that faith and prove they can dictate, to some extent, their path in the AAC this season. But they’ve got to prove it first.
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