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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Rice 2-1, Tulsa 1-1. Away Record: Rice 0-1, Tulsa 0-2. Neutral Record: Rice 0-0, Tulsa 0-0. Conference Record: Rice 1-0, Tulsa 0-0. Series Record: Tulsa leads, 10-7-1.
GAME NOTES: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane will try to right the ship as league play begins, when they take on the Rice Owls in a Conference USA battle at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
For Rice, the league schedule got off to a good start, as the Owls topped FAU, 18-14, in their conference opener. The Owls trailed 14-6 late in the fourth quarter, but a Cody Bauer fumble return for a touchdown ignited a rally. With the win the Owls are an even 2-2 on the campaign as they begin a three-game road trip in this contest.
As for Tulsa, which is playing in its conference opener, the non-league portion of the schedule wasn't kind. The Golden Hurricane suffered a 38-21 setback against Iowa State last Thursday to drop to 1-3 on the season. In the three losses the Golden Hurricane have been outscored, 123-48.
In recent history Tulsa has absolutely dominated Rice. The Golden Hurricane earned a 28-24 victory over the Owls last season and have won six straight and nine of the last 10 meetings. The string of success has earned Tulsa a 10-7-1 all-time series advantage.
After four games Rice ranks fifth in Conference USA in total offense (403.8 ypg). In fact, Rice is one of six teams in the league to be averaging over 400 yards per week. However, the Owls have been much different than many of the other teams in the conference as they are the only squad in the league to have more rushing yards (876) than passing (739).
Charles Ross has been at the forefront of the rushing production, with a team- high in carries (55), yards (319) and touchdowns (four). However, Ross missed the contest with FAU with a leg injury. Ross is expected to return for this game and is listed as probable. In Ross's absence Darik Dillard got the start and rushed for 62 yards and a score on 11 carries. Dillard has rushed for 60 or more yards in back-to-back games.
Also helping the running game is the mobility of quarterback Taylor McHargue, who has rushed for 160 yards this season, including a team-high 71 against FAU. McHargue's passing has been a different story. He is completing just 50 percent of his pass attempts on the year, with five interceptions and just two touchdowns.
Like many quarterbacks that struggle at the college level, McHargue has not done a particularly good job of getting multiple receivers involved. Jordan Taylor has brought in 21 passes for 237 yards and a score, but Mario Hull (10 receptions, 69 yards) is the only other player on the roster with 10 or more catches.
In terms of defense, the Owls rank seventh in the league in both total defense (404 ypg) and points allowed (27.8 ppg). Rice fits right into the middle of the C-USA pack in sacks (eight), tackles for loss (24) and forced turnovers (eight).
Michael Kutzler has contributed across the board on defense with a team- leading 30 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks and an interception. Christian Covington (5.5 tackles for loss. 2.0 sacks) is the most intimidating player up front.
Tulsa might be more similar to the other teams in the conference offensively, but it doesn't mean it has been successful. The Golden Hurricane are scoring less than 20 points per game while ranking towards the bottom of the league in total offense (348.8 ypg).
Cody Evans has been a bit better than McHargue as a quarterback. Green has completed 53.3 percent of his pass attempts for 847 yards. with three touchdowns and three interceptions. However, by throwing for 211.8 yards per game, Green ranks seventh in the league in passing yards.
Trey Watts has been the threat teams need to focus on when facing Tulsa. Watts not only leads the team in rushing (258 yards, two TDs), he is also the team leader in receptions with 25 for 225 yards. Watts' versatility is certainly impressive, but Tulsa lacks a ton of other standout skill players.
Ja'Terian Douglas (121 yards, TD) is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry as Watts' backup, while Jordan James (20 receptions, 284 yards, TD) and Derek Patterson (eight receptions, 127 yards, two TDs) are the next best receiving threats.
Tulsa hasn't been horrendous on defense, though it could certainly use some improvement considering the Golden Hurricane let up 429.2 yards per game. However, where the real change needs to occur is in stopping foes from putting up points. Tulsa is letting up 37.5 points per game and has allowed opponents to score on all 21 of their chances in the red zone.
Shawn Jackson has been the most productive defender with 39 tackles, including 2.0 TFL loss and a sack to go with two interceptions. Derrick Luetjen (2.0 sacks) has been the team's best pass rusher, though the Golden Hurricane have clearly struggled in that area.
This game could really hinge on whether or not Ross can play. If he cannot go or there is any lingering effects of the injury, it will open a door for Tulsa.
Sports NEtwork Predicted Outcome: Tulsa 28, Rice 21
10/02 10:38:53 ET
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