SMU (5-5) at Rice (4-6)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rice Stadium (47,000) -- Houston, Texas. Television: CSS.
Home Record: SMU 4-2, Rice 2-3. Away Record: SMU 1-3, Rice 2-3. Neutral
Record: SMU 0-0, Rice 0-0. Conference Record: SMU 4-2, Rice 2-4. Series
Record: SMU leads 48-40-1.
GAME NOTES: With just two games left in the regular season, SMU is still in
the hunt to reach the Conference USA title game, providing the team wins this
weekend in a clash with the Rice Owls at Rice Stadium.
The Mustangs are 4-2 in league play after a 34-6 rout of last season's
conference champion Southern Miss this past weekend. That leaves the team two
games back of Tulsa in the CUSA West Division standings, meaning SMU will need
a Tulsa loss this weekend. If all goes in the Mustangs' favor it would set
up a decisive season finale against the Golden Hurricane that would determine
the West Division's representative in the conference title game. One more win
would also guarantee the Mustangs bowl eligibility, earning a sixth win for
the fourth straight season.
Rice is still playing for its postseason lives and staved off elimination last
week with a narrow 49-47 victory in New Orleans over Tulane. Rice is now 4-6
overall this season and in need of wins in each of the last two games to
secure bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008 and first record of .500
or above since that same season. Rice can only play the spoiler in terms of
the conference title with the Owls just 2-4 in conference play.
These two Lone Star state squads have met 89 times previously. SMU has won the
majority of those meetings with a 48-40-1 edge in the all-time series.
On the season, SMU has nearly twice as many passing yards (2,520) as rushing
yards (1,252). In fact the Mustangs have one of the worst rushing offenses in
Conference USA, averaging only 125.2 yards per game on the ground.
Still the most reliable force in the Mustangs' offense has been running back
Zach Line. The senior running back has been an absolute workhorse this season
with 216 carries for 1,032 yards and seven touchdowns. To put that in
perspective, no other running back has more than 12 carries or 60 yards. Line
is as close as you can come to a lock for at least 20 carries and 90 yards on
any given weekend. After his 22-carry, 92-yard effort last week against
Southern Miss, he has had at least 20 carries in six straight games and seven
Even with Line's efforts the offense still runs through the passing game, led
by Garrett Gilbert. The junior quarterback has thrown for 2,393 yards and 13
touchdowns this season but has not been efficient in doing so. He has
completed only 54.0 percent of his passes this season and has just as many
interceptions (13) as touchdown passes. Gilbert has improved in the turnover
category in recent weeks as he has not thrown a pick in each of the last three
Jeremy Johnson and Darius Johnson have shared more than just a last name. The
two are the leading receivers for the Mustangs. Jeremy is the leader in
receptions (63) and yards (643), while Darius has also turned in some solid
efforts (52 receptions, 559 yards), while leading the Mustangs with four
The SMU defense has been strong this season. In fact the Mustangs have been
one of the better defensive units in the conference, ranking third in both
scoring (26.1 ppg) and total defense (378.9 ypg). Those defensive numbers have
been given a boost by SMU's ability to make plays on the ball, as the Mustangs
lead Conference USA and are tied for second nationally in interceptions with
18, six of which have been returned for touchdowns.
Randall Joyner and Kenneth Acker are the leaders in the turnover department
with each bringing in three interceptions. Joyner is also second on the team
in tackles (64) trailing Taylor Reed, who also leads the team in tackles for
loss (9.5), 5.5 of which have been sacks. Margus Hunt has also done a good job
getting pressure with a team-leading six sacks.
Rice has a much more balanced offensive attack with the Owls picking up 2,134
yards through the air and 2,043 on the ground.
Dual-threat quarterback Taylor McHargue has been the primary playmaker for
Rice. McHargue has throw for 1,674 yards and nine touchdowns, while completing
57 percent of his passes. While his passing numbers are not overly impressive
McHargue has also been able to make a great deal of noise with his ability to
pick up yards on the ground. He has rushed for 573 yards and a team-high 10
touchdowns this season. Against Tulane, McHargue had one of his best games
through the air, throwing for a season-best 259 yards, while completing 12-
of-20 passes. It was the first time since week two against Kansas he completed
at least 60 percent of his pass attempts in a game. McHargue also rushed for
60 yards and a pair of scores against the Green Wave.
All the running from McHargue has limited opportunities for running back
Charles Ross. The redshirt junior leads the team with 587 yards, but he has
scored just twice and has just four games of more than 50 yards rushing.
The Bulk of McHargue's pass attempts this season have gone the way of Jordan
Taylor and Sam McGuffie. Taylor leads the team in yards (550) on 40 receptions
but has not gotten into the end zone. McGuffie, who is listed as a running
back, leads the squad with 41 receptions and five touchdown receptions to go
along with 463 yards overall.
With the offense turning in a solid season, the Owl defense has not been able
to reciprocate. Rice is the third worst team in the conference in terms of
yards allowed (456.3 ypg), while also being lit up for 33.8 points a contest.
Such a high rate of scoring has come from Rice's inability to make plays in
crucial spots. Rice has given up touchdowns on 71.8 percent of its attempts in
the red zone, which is the worst mark in the conference.
Paul Porras is the leading tackler for the unit with 77, but only 1.5 of those
takedowns have gone for a loss. Hosam Shahin (7.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks)
and Cody Bauer (9.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) have been the most productive
players in the front seven.
Although both teams will be desperate for wins in this game, SMU has the
better chance of keeping its hopes alive. McHargue has been susceptible to
turning the ball over often this season which is bad news for the Owls against
the ballhawks on the Mustang defensive unit.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 33, Rice 28
11/14 10:39:48 ET