Start Time: 3:30 PM EST, Saturday, November 14
Location: Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas
TV: American Sports Network
Radio: Southern Miss: here. Rice: here.
Records: Southern Miss: 6-3. Rice: 4-5. Rice leads the overall series 4-1.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Southern Miss -7.5. Over/Under: 61.
Southern Miss Outlook: The Golden Eagles have been on a roll this season with a 6-3 record and a chance at the CUSA West Division title.
Southern Miss is one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. The run game has the nation's #6 ranked rushing IsoPPP, a statistic that measures how often the run game breaks a long run on successful rushing attempts.
They have a duo of running backs in Jalen Richard and Ito Smith that have combined for 1,440 yards and 10 touchdowns this fall. Smith is the more electric of the two with an impressive 7.4 yards per carry, but Richard also has the ability to take any carry to the house. The only worry in the run game is fumbling with the duo fumbling six times (five lost) on the year.
A question mark heading into the season, Nick Mullens put everything together this fall with a career season. He is one of the top passers in the nation with 2,890 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season. Mullens has done a great job of spreading the ball around with five players making 20 or more catches this fall.
Casey Martin, Mike Thomas, and D.J. Thompson lead the way with a combined 60.9% of all passing targets and 57% of all catches on the season. Smith and Richard have added another 51 catches and two touchdowns on the season. Overall, the Golden Eagles have thrown for 321.4 yards per game in route to an impressive 507.7 yards of total offense per game.
What was once a weakness, the defense has been much improved in recent weeks. In the last three games, the Golden Eagles are giving up only 11 points per game. Much of the success on defense has been due to the secondary limiting passing games to a 34.5% success rate. All is not great as the rush defense still gives up 4.3 yards per carry, but it is a far different defense than the one that gave up 50 points to Texas State.
Players to watch on the Southern Miss defense include: D'Nerius Antoine, Dylan Bradley, and Kalan Reed.
Rice Outlook: Sitting at 4-5 after nine games, it is fair to say that this season has been a disappointment for the Owls.
Expecting to see rushing records break all over the field this fall, that has not been the case for Rice. They have struggled to turn average plays into long runs, a staple of the 2015 team. While they are one of the most successful teams running the football with a 49.1% success rate, they have the fourth worst rushing IsoPPP in the nation.
One of the biggest problems for the Owls run game has been a plethora of fumbles. The Owls have fumbled the ball on 17 times and lost 11 of them. Not gaining positive yards can hurt, but turnovers can kill.
On the surface, the Rice passing game looks pretty good with quarterback Driphus Jackson passing for 1,798 yards, 15 touchdowns, and a completion rate of 60.3%. Looking closer, they are ranked #119 in passing S&P+, ranked #94 in success rate, and #127 in IsoPPP. Zach Wright, Dennis Parks, and, Temi Alaka are top targets for Jackson with a combined 86 catches for 1,202 yards and eight touchdowns. Outside of that trio, only two other players have ten or more catches on the season.
When you give up 441.2 yards per game of total offense with three games left in the regular season, you are what your statistics say... very bad. The Owls give up 5.2 yards per carry and nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. Whoever comes up against the Owls suddenly has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. As bad as things look versus the run, the pass defense is just as bad. Teams are getting approximately 10 yards per pass attempt versus Rice.
Players to look out for on the Rice defense include: Alex Lyons, Brian Womac, and Derek Brown.
Prediction: Unless Southern Miss lets the gravity of this game get into their heads, it should not even be close. The Golden Eagles should be able to have their way offensively and pull away for a big win. Southern Miss 38, Rice 13.