college football picks Rice at North Texas 9-11-10

September 10, 2010

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DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 11th, 7:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Fouts Field (30,500) — Denton, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Rice 0-1, North Texas 0-0. Away Record: Rice 0-0, North Texas 0-1. Neutral Record: Rice 0-0, North Texas 0-0. Conference Record: Rice 0-0, North Texas 0-0. Series Record: Tied, 1-1.

GAME NOTES: The Rice Owls head to Denton to battle it out against the Mean Green of North Texas in a non-conference tussle this Saturday evening at Fouts Field.

The Rice Owls fell last week to a nationally-ranked powerhouse in Texas, by a score of 34-17, not a shabby performance by any means. Now the Owls take to the road and head into Sun Belt Conference territory for their first away game of the season.

North Texas sounds the gun on its final season at Fouts Field this weekend as the Mean Green’s home opener comes behind a 35-10 loss to the Clemson Tigers last weekend.

This matchup marks only the third time in history these two squads have faced off. The last meeting was something the Mean Green would love to forget, as Rice ran away with the victory, 77-20, back in the 2008 season. Prior to that, the only other game played between these teams was in 1988, when North Texas emerged victorious, 33-17.

While Rice’s offensive attack only managed to put 17 points up on 219 total yards last weekend, it was against the fifth-ranked team overall in the nation in Texas. Quarterback Taylor McHargue connected on six of his 11 pass attempts for the Owls, good for just 90 yards. McHargue was able to hook up with receiver Randy Kitchens for Rice’s lone touchdown throw of the day, while the only other member to reach paydirt for the Owls was tailback Charles Ross. For a team that owned one of the worst offenses in the nation in 2009, Saturday’s performance wasn’t all too detrimental and left hope for the Owls that they’ll be able to head into this weekend somewhat confident in taking it to the Mean Green.

The opposite side of the ball held their own against the potent Longhorns, as Rice defenders were able to keep Texas out of the end zone via the air. The defense also kept sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert to an uninspiring 14- of-23 passing for 172 yards on the afternoon. The ground game however, was a different story. Three different Texas running backs ran for over 50 yards against the Owls. Sophomore Tre’ Newton found the end zone three times in the game, marking a career high for the Longhorn. Last season, the Owls’ defense ranked last in points allowed (43.1 points per game) and 117th in total yards allowed (464 ypg), but coaches are optimistic that the maturity level has risen and along with it, so has the quality of play.

Quarterback Nathan Tune threw for 240 yards and a touchdown for North Texas as the Mean Green fell to the Clemson Tigers, 35-10, last weekend. Unfortunately, Tune also threw two interceptions on the day. Running back Lance Dunbar was able to net 116 yards rushing on 23 carries, but was unable to find the end zone. The Mean Green had a tremendous 2009 campaign when it came to their rushing offense, averaging just over 185 yards per game. Dunbar led the way by amassing 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. With the return of four offensive lineman, there’s no reason to think Dunbar won’t have a similar, if not more impressive, 2010 season.

North Texas needs to be more consistent on the defensive side of things in order to make any noise in the Sun Belt Conference this season. The Mean Green were only able to record 13 sacks in the entire 2009 campaign, while recording one this past weekend in the opener against Clemson. While the Mean Green’s offense was potent (462 total yards), the defense was unable to clamp down in order to give North Texas a solid chance to win as they let up a total of 423 yards, including a gaudy 246 on the ground, including three touchdowns. This is nothing new to the Mean Green, who let their opponents average 412 yards per contest in 2009, while the opponent’s rushing game took them for nearly 200 yards each time out.

This Saturday looks to be a battle of two similar programs, as both squads use the running game to their advantage. Look for North Texas to garner a narrow victory in front of the home crowd.


FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS : North Texas 27, Rice 23

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