Rice (4-7) at S-M-U (6-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 26th, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000) -- Dallas, Texas. Television: FSN, CSN-CHI. Home Record: Rice 4-1, SMU 4-1. Away Record: Rice 0-6, SMU 2-4. Neutral Record: Rice 0-0, SMU 0-0. Conference Record: Rice 3-4, SMU 4-3. Series Record: SMU leads, 47-40-1.
GAME NOTES: The Rice Owls travel to Dallas to compete with the SMU Mustangs for the Mayor's Cup in Conference USA action at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
Rice is 4-7 after beating the Tulane Green Wave 19-7 last week in Houston. Head coach David Bailiff's Owls lost four of their previous five games before the Tulane game. This will be the last game of the season for Rice as its 28-6 loss to Northwestern on November 12th made bowl eligibility impossible.
June Jones's SMU squad started the season out 5-1 with its only loss coming to Texas A&M of the Big 12. The Mustangs have lost four-of-five since its hot start to the year. SMU is bowl eligible after beating Tulane 45-24 on November 5th, but Coach Jones is going to push his team hard to avoid a 6-6 finish.
This historic rivalry started in 1916. The Mayor's Cup was introduced to the series in 1998. SMU holds a 47-40-3 advantage in the series and has won the last two meetings.
Rice's offensive performance this season was below average. The Owls had their best offensive output of the season two weeks ago against Texas El-Paso with an astounding 671 yards of total offense, but has failed to come close to half that amount in their two games since. The following week Rice was held to 254 yards of total offense and just six points by Northwestern. Last week the Owls managed just 237 yards of total offense despite winning the contest.
Nick Fanuzzi took over Rice's quarterbacking duties for the second half of the season and has been hit-or-miss. Fanuzzi threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns against UTEP, but has not eclipsed the 100-yard passing mark since. With the passing game non-existent, Tyler Smith was called upon to carry the load. The senior running back put the team on his back as he rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries to secure the win for Rice. Smith has 828 yards on the year as he is ranked third in the conference in yards per game.
The Owls' defensive unit is coming off its best performance of the season as it held Tulane to 289 yards of total offense and just seven points. It was the first time all season that an opponent was held under 300 yards and the second time an opponent was held under ten points. Five different teams have gained more than 500 yards of total offense against the Owls this season, three of those gained more than 600. Cameron Nwosu leads the team with 102 total tackles for the season.
June Jones's pass heavy offense have given the Mustangs the 19th best aerial attack in the nation and second best in the Conference USA behind Chase Keenum and the Houston Cougars. In its most recent outing, SMU had a poor offensive performance as it amassed just 263 yards of total offense and seven points. Those numbers will likely go up this week as Rice's defense is often back peddling down the field.
SMU took a big hit when it lost the Conference USA's leading rusher Zach Line to injury after the Navy game. Line led the team in rushing with 1224 yards and 17 touchdowns before getting injured, the next closest is Jared Williams with 60 yards on 20 carries.
With Line out, more pressure lies on the shoulders of quarterback J.J, McDermott. The senior has looked great in some instances and terrible in others. McDermott completed just 17-of-38 passes for 180 yards and threw four interceptions. The next week against Tulane, McDermott completed 29-of-40 attempts for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
The Mustangs have two receiving options that have made McDermott's life without Line manageable. Cole Beasly leads the team with 896 yards and 72 receptions. Darius Johnson is close behind with 875 yards on 64 catches plus a team-best six touchdown grabs. The combination of Beasly and Johnson that has been giving opposing defensive coordinators headaches all season should fair well against Rice's pass defense that is ranked 116th in the nation.
SMU's defense is allowing 360.5 yards of total offense and 24.6 points per game so far this season. Fanuzzi will feel pressure as he faces the conference's second best pass rush. Taylor Reed leads the team with 85 tackles.
Earlier in the season it would have been completely obvious who would win this match up. With Line out and Rice coming off of a win in which its defense was dominant they can not be counted out. If the Owls can find a way to produce offensively they have a shot at catching the Mustangs off guard. If McDermott plays a decent game the Mustangs will win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 31, Rice 21
11/23 17:08:03 ET