Few people thought at this juncture of the season that Rice would be involved in a Game of the Week, but the Owls, with veteran transfer QB JT Daniels, is aiming for its first winning season since 2014.
Tulane is looking to repeat as the AAC champion. The Green Wave are among three Group of Five teams in this week’s AP Top 25. Air Force is No. 19, Tulane is No. 22 and James Madison is No. 25.
Tulane-Rice How To Watch
Tulane at Rice, Saturday, 4 p.m. (ET)
Tulane (6-1, 3-0 AAC)
Rice (4-3, 2-1)
Tulane-Rice Betting Odds
Tulane -11.5 (-110)
Place College Football Wagers at BetMGM
Tulane: Willie Fritz (203-115 overall, 49-46 at Tulane)
Rice: Mike Bloomgren (20-43)
Nov. 30, 2013, Rice won 17-13 at home
The win earned Rice the Conference USA West Division title and a berth in the CUSA championship game, where the Owls beat Marshall 41-24 for the title. The defense limited Tulane to 26 yards rushing on 21 carries. Tulane QB Nick Montana was held to 97 yards. Montana is the son of NFL Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana.
Why This Game is Important
Tulane is one of three teams undefeated in AAC play, along with SMU and UTSA. The top two teams in the 14-team conference will play in the AAC title game. Rice at 2-1 can jump into the race with a win. This is the beginning of a brutal three-game stretch for Rice, which hosts SMU next week and visits UTSA on Nov. 11.
The Green Wave, whose only loss was a 37-20 home defeat to Ole Miss, is coming off last week’s 35-28 home victory over North Texas. Michael Pratt’s 19-yard touchdown run with 2:34 left broke a 28-28 tie. Pratt completed 15 of 21 passes for 194 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Pratt missed two games earlier this season due to injury, including the loss to Ole Miss. In five games, he has completed 70.8% of his passes for 1,122 yards, 12 touchdowns, and two interceptions. He has also rushed for 191 yards and three scores.
Makhi Hughes is Tulane’s leading rusher with 619 yards (5.2 avg.) and five touchdowns. Lawrence Keys III, who is in his second year at Tulane after beginning his career and graduating from Notre Dame, has 27 receptions for 494 yards and six touchdowns.
The Green Wave averages 30.7 points and allows 19.43. Defensive lineman Patrick Jenkins leads the Green Wave in tackles for loss (8) and sacks (4.5).
Rice has been up and down. The Owls beat neighboring Houston 43-41 in double overtime but also suffered its AAC loss at USF 42-29 and is the only team to lose to UConn. This Owls, in their first AAC season, are coming off last Thursday’s 42-10 conference win at Tulsa. Dean Connors ran for a career-high 120 yards and three touchdowns.
Daniels completed 24 of 37 for 342 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. This season he has completed 63.8% of his passes for 2,173 yards, 17 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Rice averages 34 points per game, but allows 27.4. Connors has rushed for 300 yards (6.0 avg.) and four scores. Luke McCaffrey, brother of San Francisco 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey, has 36 receptions for 613 yards and seven touchdowns.
LB Chris Conti and safety Plae Wyatt lead the team with 45 tackles each.
I like Tulane -11.5.
Daniels, after previous stops at USC, Georgia, and West Virginia, has been the biggest reason for Rice’s turnaround after a 5-8 season last year. Rice leads the AAC in passing offense, averaging 319.9 yards per game. Tulane is 12th in the conference in passing defense, allowing 263.1 yards per game.
That said, Tulane also leads the AAC with nine interceptions, and that will be the key against Rice, causing Daniels to throw interceptions. Rice hasn’t shown it can stop a quality offense and Pratt and company should have a big game. Last week’s close call against North Texas should be a wakeup call for Tulane, which is looking to not only win but to make a statement with a convincing road victory.