UTEP vs. Rice prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Miners and Owls on Saturday in Houston, TX.
UTEP vs. Rice Game Preview
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 – Noon ET
Where: Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
TV Broadcast: ESPN3
The Miners (3-7, 1-5 Conference USA) led throughout the second half of last week’s road test at FAU, but Jason Driskel drove his team 96 yards in the closing minutes to give Charlie Partridge’s squad a 35-31 come-from-behind victory over the Miners. UTEP entered the fourth quarter leading 31-20 but allowed two scores in the final 4:36 to suffer the loss. Aaron Jones ran for 229 yards in the contest to become UTEP’s all-time leading rusher, as he now sits at 3,738 yards in his career to surpass John Harvey’s 3,576.
Meanwhile, the Owls (2-8, 1-6) went on the road last week and scored a come-from-behind win over Charlotte when Tyler Stehling threw a touchdown pass and ran for two more scores (including the go-ahead touchdown with about three minutes left) in a 22-21 win. Rice was down 21-0 before mounting the comeback, as Stehling finished with 279 passing yards and 93 more on the ground. Zach Wright added 12 receptions for 111 yards for the Owls.
When these teams met last season in El Paso, Mack Leftwich threw two touchdown passes to Jaquan White, and Jay Mattox kicked a 24-yard field goal with 48 seconds left to give UTEP a 24-21 victory. The Miners knocked down a desperation pass in the end zone on the final play to preserve the victory.
What To Know About UTEP
The Miners followed up their 42-10 home win over Houston Baptist with a real tough setback on the road in Boca Raton last week. Once again, though, Jones showed that he is one of the premier backs in the Group of Five. In his last two contests he has rushed 41 times for 457 yards and four touchdowns. He is three yards shy of 1,400 for the season and has found the end zone 13 times. He has been one of the few highlights for Sean Kugler’s squad in a season that has featured quarterback issues. However, Ryan Metz has been the answer since being named the starter, throwing nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.
What to Know About Rice
One week after David Bailiff’s squad allowed Florida Atlantic to put up a program-record 657 total yards, Rice held Charlotte to 263 yards in a gritty comeback win. Heading into the Charlotte game, the lone victory for the Owls this season came against Prairie View. Stehling threw for 407 yards and five touchdowns in that game, which was the highlight of the year up until last week. It has been a very rough campaign for Bailiff and Co., as the Owls are one of the worst teams in the FBS. The overall level of play has not been great for the Houston-based school, and it will be interesting to see if the Owls make a coaching move at the end of the year. However, for a variety of reasons, Rice is a tough place to win.
Offense: Even. Both units have struggled with consistency throughout the year but have shown glimpses of stability lately.
Defense: UTEP. Rice’s defense is incredibly porous.
Special Teams: Rice. UTEP’s special teams efficiency rating is much lower than that of the Owls.
Coaching: Even. It hasn’t been a pretty season for either head coach.
Intangibles: Rice. The Owls were down 21-0 before mounting a comeback and winning last week.
Matchup To Watch
Jones vs. Rice defensive front
The Owls are allowing teams to accrue 216.1 yards per game on the ground, so this could be another big game for Jones, whose “worst” game of the year was an 11-carry, 67-yard, one-touchdown effort. He is UTEP’s best chance to win, so expect plenty of carries. He has been the team’s offensive MVP by a mile.
Spread: Rice -1.5
UTEP vs. Rice Prediction
In a very close game between two teams desperate for victories, I’ll go with the best player on the field. That would be Jones, who pads his lead as UTEP’s all-time leading rusher in the win.
UTEP vs. Rice Score Prediction: UTEP 27, Rice 26