SMU to fight for bowl eligibility against Rice Saturday in Houston
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 16:11
SMU heads to Houston this weekend to face the Rice Owls in a must-win game for the Mustangs if the team wants to keep its chances alive to go to the Conference USA Championship.
The 5-5 Mustangs have won against Rice three straight times, but now the stakes are higher with University of Central Florida (UCF) playing Tulsa this weekend as well.
If UCF beats Tulsa and SMU beats Rice, next weekend’s game at Ford Stadium will be one of the most important in SMU head coach June Jones’ career.
“You got to go win on the road. We’ve been saying that for a long time and in the conference, you’ve got to win on the road if you want to be anybody. We’ve already lost one on the road this year so if we want to be anybody we’ve got to win this week,” Jones said.
SMU’s two conference losses have come on the road against Tulane and UCF. SMU is facing a confident Rice team that has won three of its last four games.
Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue is a dual threat as a passer and is also second on the team in rushing with 573 yards and 10 touchdowns. McHargue has thrown just five interceptions this year as a starter in every game.
“They’re better than they were last year on both sides of the ball. Their quarterback has been pretty efficient and along with that I think they could have won three other games. They’ve had some tough losses early in the year. It’ll be a tough game for us,” Jones said.
Rice is coming off two straight victories against C-USA bottom feeders Southern Mississippi and Tulane. SMU beat Southern Miss last weekend 34-6, but the loss to Tulane may come back to haunt the team.
Rice has had trouble stopping opponents’ offenses all year, giving up 33.8 points against this season, but the offense has carried the team so far this season. Rice is No. 28 in the country in rushing at 204 yards per game and averages over 200 yards in passing as well.
Rice’s success this season is due to a more seasoned group of players in addition to a healthy group.
“They’re not doing anything differently, but they’ve got a lot of healthy players that they held out last year,” Jones said.
SMU’s defense will have to stop this balanced attack this weekend if it wants to come out of Houston with a win that will also put the team at bowl eligibility.
The defense has carried the Mustangs this season and has only allowed more than 17 points three times to C-USA opponents.
In this big game a strong ground game from Zach Line will be key to controlling the clock. Line is coming off a game where he wasn’t the leading rusher because of Gilbert’s scrambling ability, but will need to return to that form against the Owls.
SMU kicks off against Rice at Rice Stadium at 2:30 p.m.