Two teams with identical records meet in Houston as Rice hits the gridiron against UTEP. Both teams are bowl eligible and tied for second in the C-USA West. They look to improve their stature in the postseason Friday night.
Start Time: 8 P.M. ET Friday, Nov. 21
Location: Rice Stadium, Houston
TV: Fox Sports 1
Records: Rice (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) UTEP (Ditto)
Live Stats: Try this
Betting Line: Rice -7.5, Over/Under of 53.5
Rice Outlook: The Owls carried a six-game win streak into last week's matchup with Marshall but we all know how that went. Rice needs to win this game, have Old Dominion beat La Tech, then beat the Bulldogs in the season finale to make a second consecutive conference title game. Friday night will also be the last home game for Rice's seniors.
Though both Rice and UTEP lack football tradition, Rice has owned UTEP lately. The Owls took seven of the last eight matchups to claim an 11-6 lead overall. That's one win for every hour it takes to drive between these two campuses if you're keeping score at home.
Last time out, Rice piled up a host of ugly stats in Huntington. Rice picked up 180 yards of offense and gave up 581. Quarterback Driphus Jackson was sacked three times. The Owls won the turnover battle 2-0, which only makes the final score look worse. This year though, Marshall is the exception to the rule when it comes to C-USA and Rice has the edge if they shake off the Herd hangover.
Jowan Davis leads the Rice running game with 824 yards and six touchdowns. Darik Dillard also claims eight rushing scores. The Owls average a respectable 186.5 rushing yards a game.
Jackson is, fittingly, the star of the show. He's passed for 1,960 yards and 15 touchdowns against just four interceptions this season and plays a major role in the 28.2 points per game Rice averages.
Jordan Taylor is the top receiver with 37 passes for 608 yards and four scores.
Miner Outlook: Up. Which is ironic, you know, considering they're the Miners and all. Nevermind.
UTEP is out of the C-USA race thanks to its head-to-head loss against La Tech. Still, a 'W' here would guarantee the school's first winning season since 2005 (and if you think that's a long time, UTEP hasn't won a bowl since 1967).
The Miners have taken four of five games since a 2-3 start. Last time out, the team rushed for 351 yards in an easy victory over North Texas. Running back Aaron Jones gained 177 yards and two touchdowns to put him over the 1,000 yard mark on the season. Nathan Jeffery tacked on three more rushing scores.
Quarterback Jameill Showers fits the "game manager" tag pretty well. He completed 8-of-11 pass attempts for 87 yards last week, and has 11 touchdowns on the year to 5 interceptions.
UTEP's D gives up just shy of 30 points a game, with 17 sacks and 17 turnovers this fall.
Prediction: The sharps love UTEP. The line for this game opened at Rice -11 and plummeted faster than... an Owl. Okay, I'll stop, promise. Rice is still a big favorite at -7.5.
Do I think I know who will win this game? No, I don't. They've got to pay for those fancy casinos though. Take Rice and the under and call me in the morning.