Rice football visits Charlotte this week in a crucial matchup for bowl eligibility. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
On the heels of a loss to UTSA, Rice football seeks a rebound win against Charlotte. The 49ers lost their last game, too. They took Memphis down to the wire but came up short, falling in overtime in a game they led most of the way. That sets up a pressure-packed matchup for both squads in Week 12. Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup between Rice and Charlotte.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Charlotte 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
If Rice football wants to reach six wins in the regular season and formally clinch bowl eligibility, they’re out of margin. If Mike Bloomgren wants to further evidence this program is on the way up, this game has to be won. There is no more room for error.
Similar to last season, Charlotte is playing for pride. The 49ers haven’t made a head coaching change again, but they are working through a strenuous first season under Biff Poggi’s leadership. Every win counts in Year One, especially when you’re 3-7 and trying to avoid the cellar of the AAC standings.
All Time | Tied, 2-2
Last Five | Tied, 2-2
Last Meeting | Home 2022, Charlotte won 56-23
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Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | Daniels – 121/287 (63.1 percent), 2443 yards, 21 TD, 7 INT
Rushing | Connors – 73 carries, 448 yards (6.1 yards per carry), 5 TD / Otoviano – 70 carries, 241 yards (3.4 yards per carry), 4 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 51 receptions, 768 yards (15.1 yds/rec), 10 TDs / Connors – 38 receptions, 384 yards (10.1 yds/rec), 3 TD
Tackles | Wyatt – 66 / Morrison – 63 / Conti – 53
Pass Breakups | Devones – 9 / Fresch – 7 / Wyatt, Taylor – 6
Interceptions | Taylor – 2 / Devones, Conti – 1
Charlotte Stat Notables
Passing | Ivey – 91/162 (56.2 percent), 1114 yards, 4 TD, 8 INT
Rushing | Jones – 106 carries, 488 yards (4.6 yards per carry), 4 TD / Kellman – 82 carries, 328 yards (4.0 ypc), 1 TD
Receiving | Weber – 30 receptions, 342 yards (11.4 yards per reception), 0 TD / Hestera – 28 receptions, 349 yards (12.5 yds/rec), 3 TD / Mack – 21 receptions, 366 yards (17.4 yds/rec), 1 TD
Tackles | Knight – 77 / Hill-Green – 71 / Okie – 49
Pass Breakups | Balfour – 9 / Hill-Green – 3 / Four tied with two each
Interceptions | Knight, Howard – 2 / Four tied with one each
Charlotte X-Factor | Run the ball
The Charlotte offense has not been good this year. The 49ers rank 13th of 14 teams in the American Conference in scoring offense entering this week. However, after failing to surpass 16 total points in the five games prior, Charlotte has now topped 33 points in each of the past two games. What’s changed? The ground game has come to life.
Charlotte had not averaged more than 4 yards per carry against an FBS opponent entering their Week 10 game against Tulsa. They averaged 4.3 yards per carry against the Golden Hurricane and an incredible 5.7 yards per carry the next weekend against Memphis. When you can move the ball on the ground that efficiently, everything gets better.
Rice X-Factor | Don’t beat yourself
Opening lines had Rice as a five-point favorite to win. As a favorite, all a team ought to have to do is play within itself and they should (in theory) win the game. Underdogs (typically) need good fortune. Underdogs (typically) need to catch a few breaks. Favorites just need to play a clean game.
The clean game part is something Rice football has struggled with in recent weeks. Rice averaged 4.0 penalties per game in the month of October, averaging 37.3 penalty yards per game. In two games so far in November, that’s spiked to 7.5 penalties per game and an average of 77 yards per game. To put that in perspective, 77 penalty yards per game would rank fourth to worst in FBS for the season.
The yardage has hurt, but it’s really been the backbreaking, drive-extending personal fouls that have sunk the Owls in each of their past two games. Handing out free yards usually comes back to bite you against better teams. Rice might be able to get away with a few against Charlotte, but they should know better than to play with fire after being burned so many times this month.
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One Final Thing
Rice football is out of mulligans and so is head coach Mike Bloomgren. If last week wasn’t a must-win game, this week is. A favorite against one of the lesser teams in the American Conference — only one AAC squad has a less total wins than the 49ers — this is one that absolutely has to be a W. Full stop.
And while we’re making requests, some style points would be nice, too.
A 6-6 finish is in play, especially considering the last team on the Owls’ slate is FAU, which just got punked by last-place ECU at home.
Entering the season, this past stretch of three games always looked like the most difficult stretch of the season. An 0-3 result was the most likely outcome. Getting two games within a touchdown was, quite frankly, better than initial expectations. And while there are no moral victories or silver lining, the season is not lost yet, nor should anyone throw in the towel on this team. There are games still to be played.
So, as Bloomgren himself would say, let’s go 1-0 this week. Beat Charlotte. Preferably comfortably, but at the end of the day, just get more points than the other team. If Rice can do that, six wins is in play. And that’s a mark they need to find a way to reach given the expectations and talent this team possesses.
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