Rice football takes on the USC Trojans in their 2022 season opener. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
USC and new head coach Lincoln Riley hope to kick off their 2022 season with a home victory as Rice football looks to play spoiler. The Owls are as talented and deep as they’ve been under coach Mike Bloomgren thus far, but they’ll still be heavy underdogs as they travel to Los Angeles in Week 1. Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs USC 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
Rice football enters the 2022 season in search of its first bowl berth since the 2014 season. The Owls will enter this game as heavy underdogs, but have shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with highly regarded opponents in the past, keeping things close with Arkansas into the fourth quarter of last season’s opener.
USC will introduce new head coach Lincoln Riley, former of the Oklahoma Sooners. It’s been almost five years since USC has been a Top 10 program like Trojans fans had become accustomed to. They’ll want to start the new era on the right foot with a home victory.
All Time | USC leads Rice, 2-0-1
Last Five | USC leads Rice, 2-0-1
Last Meeting | Away 1971, USC won 24-0
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Rice Stat Notables (2022 Returning Leaders)
Passing | Green – 36/55 (65.5 percent), 414 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing | Broussard – 114 carries, 569 yards (4.9 yards per carry), 3 TD / Montgomery – 44 carries, 256 yards (5.8 yards per carry), 2 TD
Receiving | Patterson – 38 receptions, 583 yards (15.3 yds/rec), 6 TD / Esdale (at WVU) – 29 receptions, 362 yards (12.5 yds/rec), 1 TD
Tackles | Pearcy – 57 / Taylor – 56 / Enechukwu – 49
Pass Breakups | Dunbar – 7 / Fresch – 6 / McCord – 5
Interceptions | Taylor, Nyakwol, Lockhart – 2 each
USC Stat Notables (2022 Returning Leaders)
Passing | Williams (at Oklahoma) – 126/211 (64.5 percent), 1912 yards, 21 TD, 4 INT
Rushing | Dye (at Oregon) – 211 carries, 1271 yards (6.0 yards per carry), 16 TD / Barlow – 62 carries, 289 yards (4.7 ypc), 2 TD
Receiving | Addison (at Pitt) – 100 receptions, 1593 yards (15.9 yards per reception), 17 TD / Washington – 54 receptions, 602 yards (11.1 yds/rec), 1 TD
Tackles | Goforth – 60 / Tuipulotu – 48 / Bullock – 40
Pass Breakups | Bullock, Alford – 3 / Tuipulotu – 2
Interceptions | Alford – 3 / Bullock – 2, multiple others – 1
USC X-Factor | Play clean
USC was the 10th most penalized team in the country last season and averaged 73.8 yards per game in penalties. The Trojans 20 turnovers ranked roughly in the middle of the pack, nationally. Altogether, this wasn’t a very disciplined football team. Brining in a new head coach is supposed to change that and for USC to take care of their first game under their new headman, they need that change to come swiftly.
There’s no denying the star power and talent of the USC roster, but turnovers and penalties kill drives and render even the greatest gaps in athleticism useless when plays don’t count or the ball bounces the other way. If Riley and Co. want to get off on the right foot, they absolutely must play sound football and minimize mistakes.
Rice X-Factor | Start fast
Rice football doesn’t want this game to turn into a track meet. Controlling the clock will be something the Owls weigh heavily in their playcalling and game-planning decisions. But making their presence felt early on both sides of the ball will be much more important than ensuring the clock runs quickly.
On offense, the Owls need to hit on a big play (or two) offensively. Playing from behind against a team with as much horsepower on offense as USC could lead to a quick disaster.
On defense, Rice needs an early stop, a turnover or both. Momentum is contagious and the Owls have proven they can harness it and win big games on the road (see Marshall in 2020, UAB in 2021).
Injury Report (Subscribers only)
One Final Thing
Leaving Week 1 healthy has to be near the top of the list when it comes to priorities for the Rice football team this week against USC. Last year they lost receivers Bradley Rozner and August Pitre before halftime, setting the team back much more significantly than a single nonconference defeat.
Beyond that, this should be an interesting litmus test for both sides of the ball. The USC offense has speed and is well stocked with playmakers. Seeing how the secondary and pass rush can endure this level of talent should be instructive when it comes to setting reasonable expectations for conference play.
Likewise, on offense, there needs to be some proof of continued progression. Veteran quarterback Wiley Green needs to show he can take care of the football and get the ball to the deepest cast of supporting skill players that he’s ever played with at one time. A few explosive plays through the air plus an effective running game would both be positive signs in this game.
If Rice can exhibit those evidences of growth and play a competitive game, the arrow should continue to point up on the Owls’ 2022 season.
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