The Rice Owls (2-2, 1-0) enter Chapman Stadium to face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-3, 0-0) Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
To read why Saturday's showdown is a must-win game for Tulsa, click below.
Scouting The Owls
The Rice offense struggled mightily last week against Florida Atlantic, almost costing the Owls the win. Quarterback Taylor McHargue completed just 7/24 attempts for 69 yards. Despite winning the turnover battle 4-1, it took two touchdowns in the last 4:17 for Rice to pull out an 18-14 win.
Rice's offensive strength comes on the ground, where the Owls' rank 30th in the nation in rushing yards per game with 219. Charles Ross' 319 yards leads the way while McHargue has also wheeled to 160 yards on the ground in four games.
As far as the receivers, Jordan Taylor leads the way and it's not close. He has 11 more receptions than anyone else on the team, hauling in 21 balls for 237 yards so far this season.
Defensively, Rice is solid, but not spectacular. They rank 77th in the country in points-per-game-allowed with 27.8, but the 52 they allowed to Johnny Football and Texas A&M hurts that badly. Expect the Owls to venture into the nation's top 50 by the end of the season.
Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship discussed how Rice is truly solid in every area.
"Rice is a very well-coached team," Blankenship said. "Coach (David) Bailiff has done a great job with them. They are a veteran squad, coming off of a very good season a year ago and a bowl win. I think they are very good rushing the football. Defensively, they've got a good group of guys back. They play very well together. This probably goes without saying, but they are a very smart team. Rice will be a real challenge for us."
How Tulsa Can Win
Unless Tulsa can re-establish its ground attack, this season may never get off the mat. TU rushed 28 times last week against Iowa State but was held to just 86 yards. In fact, Tulsa has rushed for just 78 yards-per-game in their three losses this season, and it's not due to lack of trying. In the same three games, TU has 27.6 attempts per.
TU is missing both Keyarris Garrett and Bryan Burnham; the guys that were expected to be the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers entering the season. Without them, this team has a below-average passing attack and won't have a shot unless the ground game gets going.
Other than that, it's the same old, same old. Turnovers, sloppiness and mistakes must be corrected, because this Tulsa team doesn't have the talent/experience to overcome those things this season.
The Golden Hurricane has given me no reason to think they're going to fix the problems that ail them. Turnovers, missed opportunities and a consistent lack of execution have led to blowouts in three of TU's first four games. Last week's second-half meltdown against ISU indicated that the Hurricane still hasn't found a cure for what ails them.
TU should show up with a sense of urgency for this one, knowing a loss would severely hinder any shot of a conference title. Still though, they'll have to prove it before I'll pick them again.
Rice wins, 26-20