Rice Owls at Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
Legion Field – Birmingham, Alabama
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 7:30 pm Eastern, TV: Fox Sports 1
Opening Line: Rice -14 (-120)
Current Line: Rice -18 1/2
Opening Total: 63 1/2
Current Total: 63 1/2
Opening Money Line: Rice -950 / UAB +645
Current Money Line: Rice -1100 / UAB +700
The 7-3 Rice Owls are 5-1 in the Conference USA West Division and tied with North Texas for the lead. North Texas does hold the tiebreaker though as they beat Rice 28-16. UTSA and Tulane are also in the mix for a spot in the Conference USA Championship game with 4-2 records.
Rice travels to Alabama-Birmingham Thursday night at historic Legion Field. The 2-8 Blazers are 1-5 in Conference USA. This is the fifth ever meeting between Rice and UAB, and the series is tied 2-2. The home team has won every game in the series. Rice won the last meeting in 2010 in Houston 28-23.
Rice is coached by David Bailiff. The Owls have road losses to Texas A&M 52-31, and North Texas, along with a neutral site loss to Houston 31-26 at Reliant Stadium where the NFL’s Houston Texans play their home games. Rice has home wins over Kansas 23-14, Florida Atlantic 18-14, UTEP 45-7, and last week against Louisiana Tech 52-14, along with road wins at Tulsa 30-27 in overtime, UTSA 27-21, and New Mexico State 45-19. Rice is 7-3 ATS and the total is 4-6 this season. Rice was a a 14.5 point favorite against Louisiana Tech Saturday and the total was 51.
Rice scored the first 31 points of the game before Louisiana Tech finally got on the board with a touchdown midway through the third quarter. The Owls scored 21 more points in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored a meaningless touchdown to make the final 52-14. Rice Running back Charles Ross had 218 rushing yards on 27 carries with 5 touchdowns. The Owls had 582 total yards including 415 rushing yards. The Bulldogs had 327 total yards including 146 rushing yards. The two teams combined for 11 penalties for 109 yards. Louisiana Tech had four turnovers and Rice had one.
Rice is outscoring teams 31-23 this season. The Owls are #33 in points allowed. Rice is averaging 427.5 yards per game including 185.3 passing and 242.2 rushing yards per game. The Owls are #15 nationally in rushing and #102 in passing out of 125 FBS teams. On defense, Rice is allowing 373.7 total yards including 198.7 passing and 175 rushing yards per game. The Owls are #44 in total defense and #16 in pass defense nationally. Rice is +9 in turnovers with 23 takeaways. The Owls average 47 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 42. Rice is 63/163 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 63/176. Rice has forced 12 sacks and allowed 23 this season. Rice is 34/37 scoring in the red zone with 28 touchdowns and opponents are 21/25 with 15 touchdowns. The Owls have 3 defensive touchdowns, and have allowed a punt return and a fumble return for touchdowns.
Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue has completed 52.4% of his passes for 1,746 yards with 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions along with 110 carries for 359 yards and 5 touchdowns. Running back Charles Ross has 158 carries for 1,013 yards with 11 touchdowns, along with 5 catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. Darik Dillard has 61 carries for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns along with 3 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. Jawon Davis has 54 carries for 268 yards and a touchdown. Turner Petersen has 58 carries for 239 yards, plus 24 catches for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns. Driphus Jackson and Luke Turner each have a rushing touchdown. Turner also threw a touchdown pass. Receiver Jordan Taylor has 43 catches, 665 yards and 6 touchdowns. Dennis Parks has 19 catches, 347 yards and 3 touchdowns. Donte Moore has 14 catches for 181 yards. Mario Hull has 12 catches for 99 yards.
UAB is coached by Garrick McGee. The Blazers have a home win over Northwestern State 52-28 and a road win at Florida International 27-24. UAB has home losses to Florida Atlantic 37-23 and Middle Tennessee 24-21, along with road losses at Troy 34-31 in overtime, at LSU 56-17, Vanderbilt 52-24, UTSA 52-31, at Marshall 56-14, and last week at East Carolina 63-14. The Blazers have lost 4 straight games. UAB is 3-7 ATS and the total is 8-2 this season. The Blazers were 28 point underdogs at East Carolina and the total was 67.5.
East Carolina took a 35-7 lead at halftime against UAB. The Pirates would cruise to a 63-14 win and maintain a half game lead in the C-USA East Division. The Blazers had 354 total yards including 210 passing. East Carolina had 625 total yards including 347 passing and 278 rushing yards. UAB had 9 penalties for 89 yards and 3 turnovers, including a 50 yard pick six. East Carolina had 2 turnovers.
UAB is being outscored 43-25 this season. The Blazers are #84 in scoring and #120 out of 125 FBS teams in points allowed. UAB is averaging 395.1 total yards, including 209.7 passing yards and 185.4 rushing yards. The Blazers are #76 in total offense and #85 in passing. On defense, UAB is allowing 503.5 yards per game, including 280.9 passing and 222.6 rushing yards per game. The Blazers are #107 or worse in all defensive categories. UAB is -4 in takeaways with 15 giveaways. The Blazers average 45 penalty yards per game and opponents average 44. UAB is 63/160 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 65/131. The Blazers have forced 13 sacks and allowed 17 this season. UAB is 25/29 scoring in the red zone with 14 touchdowns, and opponents are 43/48 with 38 touchdowns. The Blazers have a kick and punt return both for touchdowns, and have give up four defensive scores.
UAB quarterback Austin Brown has completed 54.4% of his passes for 1,199 yards with 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He was benched three weeks ago, despite not being injured or putting up terrible numbers and replaced with Jonathan Perry. Perry has completed 52.1% of his passes for 898 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 32 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown. Perry has taken every snap the last 3 games.
Running back Darrin Reeves has 176 carries for 827 yards and 9 touchdowns, plus 23 catches for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jordan Howard has 128 carries for 826 yards and two touchdowns, plus 3 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Two little used running backs Tamar Mickens and Bashr Coles are both out Thursday. Receiver Jamarcus Nelson has 32 catches for 602 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with a punt return and a kick return for touchdowns. Jamari Staples has 30 catches, 443 yards with 4 touchdowns. Kennard Backman has 25 catches for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Rice is 5-0 ATS against teams with losing records, 4-0 after accumulating 450 total yards or more, and passing for less than 170 yards, 6-1 in road games, 5-1 overall, 4-1 in Conference USA games, and after a straight up win, 19-6-1 after rushing for 200 yards or more, 9-3-1 after a cover, 8-3 on fieldturf, and after allowing less than 20 points, 20-8 in November, and 0-4 in Thursday games.
UAB is 5-1 ATS against teams with winning road records, 1-4 after a straight loss, after failing to cover, after allowing 200 rushing yards or more, in November, after allowing 280 passing yards or more, and on fieldturf, 1-5 against teams with winning records, after a straight up loss of more than 20 points, and after allowing 450 total yards or more, 1-6 overall, and 1-7 in Conference USA games. The home team has covered the last four games in this series.
UAB has one of the worst defenses in the country but Rice can’t afford to overlook this team. The Owls need to keep pace with North Texas for the division lead. This line moved from Rice -14 to -18 1/2. I think Rice wins easily, but watch out for the back door cover possibility.