Rice football takes on Houston in their final nonconference game of the season. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Rice football scored one of the marquee upsets of Week 3, knocking off a Louisiana squad that entered the week with the nation’s longest winning streak. The win pushed Rice to 2-1 on the season at roughly the same time when crosstown rival Houston was falling to 1-2. The Cougars were blasted by Kansas at home, their second straight defeat following a double-overtime loss to Texas Tech. Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Houston 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
Houston has won six consecutive games against Rice and dominated Rice 44-7 as recently as last season. The Cougars get this game at home and desperately need to win it to get back to .500 and avert a season in crisis. On the other side of town, Rice football is playing with house money. They’re fresh off a monumental win and playing great football.
The Cougars probably have the talent advantage, but the Owls have the momentum. This one could be interesting.
All Time | Houston leads, 32-11
Last Five | Houston leads, 5-0
Last Meeting | Home 2021, Houston won 44-7
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Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | McMahon – 51/80 (63.8 percent), 642 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT
Rushing | Broussard – 51 carries, 145 yards (2.8 yards per carry), 4 TD / Montgomery – 15 carries, 132 yards (8.8 yards per carry), 0 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 19 receptions, 202 yards (10.6 yds/rec), 2 TD / Esdale – 12 receptions, 155 yards (12.9 yds/rec), 0 TD
Tackles | Morrison, M. Williams – 11 / Lockhart – 9
Pass Breakups | Morrison, Dunbar – 2 / Five others tied with one
Interceptions | Nyakwol, Chamberlain, Taylor – 1
Passing | Tune – 64/102 (62.3 percent), 744 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing | Campbell – 36 carries, 177 yards (4.9 yards per carry), 2 TD / Tune – 37 carries, 111 yards (3.0 ypc), 2 TD
Receiving | Dell – 18 receptions, 246 yards (13.4 yards per reception), 2 TD / Harry – 10 receptions, 151 yards (15.1 yds/rec), 1 TD
Tackles | Mutin – 24 / Owens – 22/ Parish – 18
Pass Breakups | Owens, Hogan – 4 / Green – 2
Interceptions | Owens, Green, Rogers, Ceaser – 1
Houston X-Factor | Get off the field
Through three weekends of college football, the Houston Cougars rank No. 118 in the nation in total defense. Rice ranks 40th. And the Owls have had to face the nation’s current No. 11 offense, USC. Houston hasn’t faced a single top 30 offense yet. That’s a lot of numbers meant to communicate one thing: Houston has been mediocre, at best, on the defensive side of the ball.
Although Rice football has taken to the air this season with more consistency than in previous years, running the football and controlling the clock remains a staple of the Owls’ offensive scheme. You can be sure the Rice coaching staff is aware of the potent Houston offense and will do their best to play keep away when possible.
Houston has to get off the field on defense. Whether by turnover or a third down stop, the Cougars have to show progress on this side of the football if they want the game to go as they’d hope.
Rice X-Factor | Don’t turn the ball over
Through three games, TJ McMahon is sports a woeful 7:6 touchdown to interception ratio. Three of those picks came in a lost outing against USC, but the other three came in what could have been a disastrous first half against Louisiana. McMahon was off target and made bad decisions, including his third pick-six of the season.
Nobody could have said it better than he did following the game. “We’re going to play a lot of teams later down the road where, you know, you make those little mistakes or if I have a first half again like that, we’re not going to be able to win those games,” McMahon admitted.
He’s probably right, too. Three picks against Houston is going to be tough to overcome. The Cougars’ offense has historically been much more proficient than the Ragin’ Cajuns and the road atmosphere will be much less forgiving. But Rice saw the upshot of a clean performance in the second half. This team was impressive. If they can channel that energy, they’ll be hard to beat.
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One Final Thing
Before the season, a 2-2 record in nonconference play was seen as the most reasonable “best case scenario” for Rice football this year. Beating McNeese State was a base level expectation. Finding a way to squeeze out one more win was the dream. Now sitting at 2-1, the Owls are playing with house money. And after winning this past game how they did, having larger expectations seems decidedly appropriate.
Rice hasn’t won the Bayou Bucket since 2010. They’ve only posted two wins in this rivalry since the 2004 season. Houston entered the year with AAC title expectations and even the subtle murmurings of dark horse college football playoff buzz. The latter is certainly out the window, but this is still a dangerous team that will be able to score points in bunches as long as Clayton Tune and Tank Dell are in the lineup.
And yet, Rice will have more than a puncher’s chance this coming weekend. Rice proved they can go toe to toe with a very good Group of 5 program, even when they throw three interceptions in the process. This should be a good game. Don’t be surprised if the Owls take the Cougars to deep water in the fourth quarter. Once they’re there, anything can happen.
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