Rice football hosts FAU this week with bowl eligibility on the line. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
In a battle of Owls, Rice football enters the fray flying higher. The Owls won at Charlotte last weekend, preservering their bid at bowl eligibility. The visiting FAU Owls fell to Tulane, their seventh loss of the year. Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup between Rice and FAU.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs FAU 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
Rice football could technically have an outside shot at bowl eligibility as a five-win team, but they’d rather avoid stressing about that situation for a second year in a row. A win on Saturday would also ensure another year of improvement in the win column for head coach Mike Bloomgren, with the possibility of a seventh win in the bowl game. Rice hasn’t won seven games since 2014.
On the other sideline, FAU isn’t playing for anything, which makes them dangerous. Every win counts for a coach in his first year at a new school and rest assured Tom Herman won’t go easy on Rice when he makes his return to campus.
All Time | Rice leads, 2-1
Last Five | Rice leads, 2-1
Last Meeting | Away 2022, FAU won 17-14
Get the Inside Scoop
Get access to practice reports, analysis and special features during the week when you subscribe to our Starting Lineup Tier on Patreon today. If you want updates on how Rice football plans to attack this week’s opponent, position battles, standouts, injuries and more, this is your go-to source. Don’t miss out! Join now!
Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | Daniels – 121/287 (63.1 percent), 2443 yards, 21 TD, 7 INT
Rushing | Connors – 92 carries, 662 yards (6.9 yards per carry), 5 TD / Otoviano – 70 carries, 241 yards (3.4 yards per carry), 4 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 56 receptions, 822 yards (14.7 yds/rec), 11 TDs / Connors – 38 receptions, 384 yards (10.1 yds/rec), 3 TD
Tackles | Wyatt – 70 / Morrison – 66 / Conti, Taylor – 53
Pass Breakups | Devones – 10 / Fresch – 7 / Wyatt, Taylor – 6
Interceptions | Taylor, Devones – 2 / Conti – 1
FAU Stat Notables
Passing | Richardson – 200/309 (64.7 percent), 1908 yards, 12 TD, 10 INT
Rushing | McCammon – 146 carries, 675 yards (4.6 yards per carry), 5 TD / Lewis – 77 carries, 324 yards (4.2 ypc), 2 TD
Receiving | Wester – 104 receptions, 1125 yards (10.9 yards per reception), 8 TD / Johnson – 35 receptions, 362 yards (10.3 yds/rec), 3 TD
Tackles | Morris – 75 / Ambush – 73 / Tisdol – 67
Pass Breakups | Morris – 5 / McClendon, Mungin, Antoine – 3
Interceptions | Morris – 3 / Six others tied with one each
FAU X-Factor | Make every trip count
In league play, Rice football leads the AAC in red zone defense. They’ve allowed 13 touchdowns on 27 trips. Forcing opponents to settle for three rather than getting six has helped keep them in games and nearly scored them upsets against Tulane and SMU.
Meanwhile, the FAU offense has stalled out entirely. The Owls have scored 15 points in their last eight quarters. Relying on home run plays by LaJohntay Wester isn’t a sustainable scoring solution so when FAU does get the ball within striking distance, they absolutely must capitalize.
The Rice defense has played better as of late and is coming off one of their best performances of the season. FAU has converted 60 percent of their field goal tries on the season and has made 3-of-7 from 30+ yards out. They simply have to put the ball in the box when they get their opportunities.
Rice X-Factor | Run the dang ball
It’s hard to believe it’s possible, but Rice football might not have run the ball enough last time out against Charlotte, despite Dean Connors having a career day. The running game also helped cover some offensive miscues and mishaps that took place with a backup quarterback at the helm.
No matter who takes the snaps for Rice this week, a potent running game makes this offense even more potent.
FAU won’t make it easy. No team in the AAC has allowed fewer touchdowns in league play than the Owls. Yet, Charlotte’s run defense looked solid enough on paper before Connors showed up and gashed them. If Connors can do it again, it’s hard to see the Rice offense stalling out that often, which would force FAU into catch-up mode. That’s not something the’ve proven they can do.
Injury Report (Subscribers only)
One Final Thing
“We understand what’s at play this week and how big of a deal this game’s going to be. It’s huge,” Bloomgren said on Saturday afternoon, noting the significance of the upcoming game against FAU because Rice found a way to take care of business against Charlotte. And quite frankly, huge might be an understatement. This game is massive.
A win against FAU would ensure Rice a .500 record in league play. Here are the AAC programs currently guaranteed to be at least .500 in league play this season: Tulane, SMU, UTSA, Memphis and Navy. That’s good company to keep.
For further comfort, three of the Owls’ four AAC losses came to that collection of teams with the lone exception belonging to USF which could clinch a bowl berth this weekend. Tack on a win over Houston — still the only Power 5 win by the conference this year — and you get a sturdy season against a tough schedule with a marquee rivalry win under your belt.
Even though much of that would be true with a loss, a sub-.500 season doesn’t carry with it the same power. No, this game matters because of it can solidify this 2023 Rice Football team as one that hung with the big boys in the league, had one hiccup against UConn, and otherwise represented the university well.
Plus, this team wants to go bowling again. This time the “right” way, if that even is an appropriate designation.
Subscribe on Patreon for exclusive Rice football recruiting updates, practice notes and more.