Rice Football hopes to bounce back from a tough opener with a road win against Southern Miss. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
The return to the gridiron was a painful one for Rice football last Saturday. They almost completed a late rally to beat Middle Tennessee, but a bad bounce and too many self-inflicted wounds pushed victory just outside of their reach. They’ll hope to rebound this week against another C-USA squad suffering a painful loss.
After having their last two games postponed, Southern Miss returned to the field without quarterback Jack Abraham, who did not make the trip with the team to face Liberty. The Flames dropped 56 points on the Golden Eagles, who fell to 1-4 entering Week 9.
We’ll preview Rice football vs Middle Tennessee on Episode 58 of The Roost Podcast which will be released on Thursday. 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.)
Last week we launched the debut episode of Inside the Hedges, a weekly live show with myself and former Rice football quarterback Taylor McHargue. Check it out Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. here or watch it at your leisure on the Rice Athletics Youtube page.
Sizing up the contenders
Rice is still reeling from their loss to Middle Tennessee, but they’re going to have to get-right quickly. Falling to 0-2 to start a season that began with so much promise would be doubly painful, especially with only six games on the docket to date. Rice needs a bounce back in the worst way.
Southern Miss played last week without their starting quarterback or their head coach. The recipe for disaster was there, and still the Golden Eagles made a game of it in the second half before Liberty pulled away. Battling COVID-19 issues and the challenges of a coaching change make this squad hard to size up, but the talent is certainly there on offense.
All Time | Southern Miss leads 6-4
Last Five | Southern Miss leads 5-0
Last Meeting | Home 2019, Southern Miss won 20-6
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Collins – 18/35 (51.4 percent), 242 yards passing, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing | Otoviano – 20 carries, 84 yards (4.2 yards per carry)
Receiving | Trammell – 3 receptions, 76 yards (25.3 yards per reception), 2 TD | Myers – 6 receptions, 65 yards (10.8 yards per reception)
Tackles | Alldredge – 13, Lockhart – 12, Chamberlain – 9
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Devones – 1 PBU
Southern Miss Stat Notables
Passing | Abraham – 85/132 (64.4), 1112 yards passing, 7 TD, 3 INT
Rushing | Gore – 46 carries, 208 yards (4.5 yards per carry), 1 TD
Receiving | Brownless – 17 receptions, 301 yards (17.7 yards per reception), 3 TD | T. Jones – 14 receptions, 299 yards (9.6 yards per reception), 2 TD
Tackles | Maples – 38, Shorts – 37, Hemby – 29
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Brooks/Scott – 4 PBU, Barnes/Latham/Scott – 1 INT
Southern Miss X-Factor | Big-time quarterback play
Whether it’s Jack Abraham or Tate Whatley, Southern Miss is going all-offense this year under interim coach Scottie Walden. No matter who takes the snaps for Southern Miss, their ability to find holes in the Rice secondary will play a massive role in determining the outcome of this game.
Middle Tennessee’s Asher O’Hara’s success through the air was the difference against a young Rice secondary, but when those balls didn’t fall, Rice was able to get pressure and give themselves an opportunity to win the game late.
Fortunately for Southern Miss, they have a host of playmakers at their disposal on the edges. Freshman running back Frank Gore Jr. has played well to this point too. Southern Miss just needs to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers in space. If they can, they’ll expose mismatches in the Rice secondary.
Rice X-Factor | Eliminate self-inflicted mistakes
Rust was always going to be a factor for the Owls coming off a seven-week delay to start their season. The Owls had chances to beat Middle Tennessee at home last week, but three turnovers proved costly.
The usually sure-handed Austin Trammell muffed a punt. Mike Collins’ erratic start included an interception thrown way beyond his wide receiver streaking down the field. A second half strip-sack that resulted in a walk-in touchdown for the Blue Raiders defense was equally jarring. And still, with all of those mistakes, Rice found a way to take a late lead.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about this team, but we do know that losing the turnover battle by two is going to be hard for any team to overcome. The Rice defense needs to create more opportunities themselves, but even if they don’t, the Rice offense and special teams can’t spot the other team extra possessions.
Injury Report (Subscribers only)
The Roost’s 2020 Rice Football Season Preview has four pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth charts, important new arrivals and depth chart breakdowns for every team in Conference USA. Better yet, it’s not just speculation, each profile was created with insight from local experts who cover those teams day in and day out. Pick up your copy today and get four pages and more than 1,000 words on every foe.
Pick ‘Em Contest
If you haven’t yet, make sure you submit your entry for The Roost’s weekly pick’em challenge. Choose an answer to each of the six questions below and submit them on the forum thread to enter.
- How many passing yards does the Rice defense allow?
Over 274.5 / Over 274.5
- Which team commits the first turnover?
Rice / Southern Miss (or neither)
- Who has the more total tackles for Rice on defense?
Alldredge / Montero (or tie)
- What will be the distance of the longest scoring play?
Over 29.5 yards / Under 29.5 yards
- How many first downs will the Rice offense achieve?
Over 19.5 / Under 19.5
- Who wins?
Rice / Southern Miss
We knew this season was going to be hard to evaluate at its onset. After one game, it looks like Rice has taken a step forward on offense and a step back on defense, primarily because of the young secondary. Both sides of the ball will have things to improve against Southern Miss.
On offense, can Collins get locked in more quickly? Starting 2-of-10 and settling for early field goals allowed Middle Tennessee to hang around.
On defense, Rice has to eliminate the wide open receptions. Asher O’Hara had two uncontested touchdown heaves. You can live with mistakes here and there, but at a bare minimum, receivers shouldn’t be allowed free passage to the endzone.
If Rice can improve in both those areas, they’ll have a chance to win. They had a chance to win on an off night last weekend. We’ve seen enough of what this team can be. It’s time they put that finished product out on the field.
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