Location: Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
Kickoff: 6:00 pm CDT
Radio: 92.5 FM, 95.3 FM, and our own SB Nation 1560 AM
Television: BeIN Sports
Online Stream: BeIN Sports Connect
Live Stats: GameTracker
Series History: Rice leads 3-1. UTSA won the last meeting 34-24.
Vegas Line: UTSA -3.5, O/U 57
Two programs on differing trajectories will meet on the field tomorrow for the fourth iteration of their young series. Rice stands at 0-5 through a brutal start to the season in which several key players suffered serious injuries early on as the Owls burrowed a hole that they haven’t been able to fly out of so far this season.
While the Roadrunners’ record isn’t much improved over Rice’s mark, it certainly feels like UTSA is trending in the right direction under head coach Frank Wilson. UTSA currently sits at 2-3 on the season but the Roadrunners’ bowl hopes are alive after the young team knocked off division favorite Southern Miss in the Alamodome last week.
Rice Outlook (Jeremy)
A bye week offered Rice a chance to hit the reset button and get some players back on the field.
At his press conference Monday, Coach David Bailiff used words like “refreshed” and “refocused” to forget an 0-5 start that has frustrated the team and its fans.
“We had a great week of practice last week,” Bailiff said. “These guys are playing hard and doing everything we ask them to do. That’s encouraging. They’re not pointing fingers; they are uniting in the cause. They need a little time away from us, and I think they liked that.”
If Rice is going to salvage the season, defensive improvement is a must. The Owls are last in the country in total defense and pass efficiency defense. The defense gave up 702 yards to Southern Mississippi in Rice’s last game. The Golden Eagles scored touchdowns on plays of 75, 81 and 93 yards. Giving up big plays have hurt Rice all season.
“For 63 plays we play outstanding football, but on eight plays we give up big plays and you’re not going to win doing that,” Bailiff said about the Southern Miss game.
Rice running back Darik Dillard, a San Antonio, native may not play Saturday due to injury. While his presence will be missed, Rice can turn to several other backs, including Samuel Stewart, who ran for 132 yards against Southern Miss. Offensive guard Peter Godber and Austin Walter (running back, kick returner) are expected to be back as well.
UTSA is somewhat susceptible to the run, giving up nearly 200 yards a game, so this may be Rice’s best path to victory.
UTSA Outlook (Jared)
It’s been months (years?) since the Roadrunners had last put together a full four quarters of impressive football. UTSA came out of the bye looking rebuilt last week as the Roadrunners raced out to a huge lead over Southern Miss in one of the most statistically efficient offensive performances of the modern college football era, averaging 10.75 yards per play. The Roadrunners gave up 32 points to the Golden Eagles but their defensive performance was still commendable as UTSA was able to play stifling man defense in coverage and bring pressure to Nick Mullens.
Last week proved the Roadrunners’ potential but will it be their reality for the second half of the season?
Historically the UTSA program was failed to follow up on impressive performances in the previous week. We were mostly recently reminded of that fact last month after the Roadrunners put in a ferocious effort against Arizona State only to lay an egg against Old Dominion in the following week.
Larry Coker was never able to get his teams to convert momentum into sustained success. This week will go a long way in determining if Frank Wilson has the sauce as a head coach or not. A win against Rice puts the Roadrunners in an advantageous position to embark on a four game winning streak as the S&P+ win probability projector has UTSA favored to win against Rice, UTEP, and North Texas.
Jared: Many UTSA fans have thrown the “trap game” label on this game. While I definitely understand the logic, I think Rice is in really poor shape both physically and mentally. I like UTSA’s chances to push the ball down the field through the air as the Roadrunners’ revamped offensive line has vastly improved the tidiness of Dalton Sturm’s passing pockets. I’ll take UTSA to win 38-24.
Jeremy: The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for Rice. Sometimes just getting away for a few days can calm down a situation or bring new perspective. I think we’ll see Rice play with more focus and make less mistakes. However, UTSA is coming off a game where they scored 55 points against a defense that is much better than Rice’s. Even if the Owl defense can limit the big plays, it may not be enough. UTSA wins 35-27.