WKU vs Rice: Don’t overlook the Owls

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

WKU (5-4, 4-1 C-USA) is traveling down to Houston, Texas after a two-game home stand to play the Rice Owls (3-6, 2-3 C-USA) Saturday afternoon. Here’s what you need to know about the matchup.

Watch out for the trap game! 

A trap game is when a team overlooks an opponent because of an important game the following week. WKU still controls its fate on the east side of Conference USA. 

The Hilltoppers can also still make the Conference USA championship game whether they win or lose this weekend because Rice is a part of C-USA’s West Division. WKU has senior day next week against C-USA east contender FAU, a matchup that should be in the forefront of every Hilltoppers’ mind. 

The Owls haven’t been incredible this year but have had their moments. They led at halftime in their season opener against SEC opponent Arkansas and their last three games have come down to just one possession. The Owls upset Alabama-Birmingham in the Blazers’ homecoming game 30-24, proving they can do some damage when it’s least expected. 

Rice, on paper, looks like an easy win for WKU, especially when the Hilltoppers are 18-point favorites on the road. The Hilltoppers average the seventh-most points in the nation while the Owls allow the 13th most points in the nation, being outscored by 149 points this year. 

This game could go according to plan, or it could make the WKU faithful sweat. 

Owl’s offensive woes 

The Rice passing game has been abysmal. The Owls started three different quarterbacks across the first four games of 2021. The trio’s touchdown-to-interception ratio is an even 10 TDs to 10 picks. 

The Owls’ rushing game averages 3.6 yards a carry, but has shown some flashes of greatness. Redshirt sophomore halfback Ali Broussard rushed for 186 yards on 9.4 yards per carry last Saturday against Charlotte. That was the second time this season a Rice player rushed for 100 yards in a game. 

This Rice offense averages 19 points per game, 13th worst in the nation. The Owls have turned the ball over 15 times this season for an appalling -5 turnover margin on the year. 

Over its four game win streak, WKU has given up just 18 points per game while forcing an insane 14 turnovers. The Hilltoppers have outscored their opponents by an average of 24 points during that stretch.  

WKU matches up really well against Rice on paper, but any team can win on any given Saturday.

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.