Southern Miss vs Rice

Southern Miss vs Rice

You will excuse even the most ardent of college football fans if they scratch their heads trying to figure out Southern Miss vs. Rice in the 2022 Lending Tree Bowl. It is a little befuddling for even those of us who cover this game every week.

LendingTree Bowl

Southern Miss (6-6) vs. Rice (5-7)

Saturday December 17th;  5:45pm eastern


 Hancock-Whitney Stadium; Mobile, Alabama

Rice Owls

This of course is one of the more curious parts of the bowl system. Rice is only 5-7. But there were not enough schools to fill the massive bowl schedule. So, Rice got in based on its Academic Progress Rate (APR). The academics are high under any circumstances. But when compared to the other schools looking for a spot in the postseason, it was the proverbial “no-brainer.”

The Owls were actually in the sweet spot to make the bowl through the front door at 5-4, before losing their final three games of the season. The offense was averaging 30 points per game through the first nine weeks of the season. The Owls sputtered through those last three weeks averaging 11.3 points per game.

To be fair, starting quarterback T.J. McMahon missed the last two games of the season with an injury. He is expected to be back this week for the bowl game. While the offense was only ranked 85th in the country for points per game, it was clearly better with McMahon than without him. He threw for 2,102 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes in his first season as a starting quarterback. But he also had 14 interceptions in his 10 games.

Rice’s run game in by committee. Cameron Montgomery leads the way with 498 rushing yards. Juma Otoviano is second on the team with 391 yards and a touchdown. Ari Broussard leads the team in touchdowns with nine.

The offense is going to have to get back to its form from the first nine weeks because the defense is unlikely to be enough to win the game. The Owls give up 33.8 points per game with 167 of it being on the ground and look at who they are having to study this week, (the answer is below in the Southern Miss section).

Southern Miss Eagles

With Rice giving up as much yardage as it does on the ground, count on seeing and hearing a lot of the name Frank Gore, Jr for Southern Miss. He was named All-Sun Belt second team after making honorable mention as a redshirt freshman in 2021. Gore, Jr. finished this season as a thousand-yard rusher and had seven touchdowns. He had a season-high 199 yards rushing in the regular season finale against Louisiana Monroe.

The offense figures to rely even more heavily on him than usual, as the Eagles have gone through a laundry list of quarterbacks this season. Ty Keyes started the season but suffered a hand injury in week two of the season. He was replaced by Zach Wilke, who kept the job even when Keyes was medically cleared to return. By mid-November head coach Will Hall had moved on to Trey Lowe, who threw for 295 yards and a touchdown in a three-point loss to Coastal Carolina. For his season, such as it is in terms of games, he is just under 800 yards passing with three touchdown passes and two interceptions.

All three are believed to be available for this weekend’s bowl game. That means, depending on the flow of the offense, we are likely to see at least two of them.

The Southern Miss defense should have a decided advantage over Rice. The Owls don’t put up a lot of points per game, (even fewer over the last three weeks of the season). And the Southern Miss defense is 45th in the country in points given up per game at 23.5.

The Eagles are a 6.5-point favorite.



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