NCAA Football: Houston Cougars vs. Rice Owls Preview, Prediction & Odds -- Sept. 11, 2021

by Big Al Staff

Game time: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sept. 11, 2021
Venue: Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
Where to watch: CBS Sports Network

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Houston -8; O/U 53.5; Houston -335, Rice +260
BetMGM: Houston -8; Houston -357, Rice +270
Caesars: Houston -8; O/U 53.5; Houston -330, Rice +260

Season record
Houston: 0-1
Rice: 0-1

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Houston - Rice preview and analysis


Recent form
Houston: lost 38-21 vs. Texas Tech on Sept. 4
Rice: lost 38-17 at Arkansas on Sept. 4

When a team from the Big 12 plays defense that rocks you to your boots, you need to reevaluate life.

That’s likely what the Houston Cougars are doing this week after three second-half turnovers cost them in a 38-21 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Week 1 at NRG Stadium, formerly known as Reliant Stadium

Houston led 21-7, but two touchdowns in 1:12 tied it 21-21, and that was all that was needed. The Red Raiders outscored Houston 31-0 in the second half.

Now the Cougars get to take out their frustration on their biggest rivals, the Rice Owls, in the home opener for Rice.

While the Owls also also lost by the tune of three scores this past weekend in their first game, they gave the Arkansas Razorbacks a fight. With 10:28 left in the third quarter, Rice led 17-7 after Wiley Green found August Pitre III for a 41-yard touchdown. That would be the last time Rice scored in Fayetteville. Arkansas scored 31 unanswered points and won 38-17 to avoid the upset.

These two schools are separated by a grand total of four miles, and the Cougars lead the all-time series 31-11 Rice actually led the last meeting 24-17 at halftime on Sept. 1, 2018, but only tacked on a field goal in the second half and lost 45-27. This will be the ninth time Houston’s road opener is against Rice; the Cougars are 5-3 with all but two wins coming by at least two scores.

Rice could have a quarterback dilemma heading into Week 2. Green got the start, but was 12-of-25 for 152 yards to go with three interceptions. Luke McCaffrey was 5-of-10 for 75 yards in relief action. The Owls relied heavily on their air attack with Pitre reeling in 97 yards and that touchdown. On the ground, Rice had only 81 yards on 39 carries.

Long gone are the exciting passing days in Houston. QB Clayton Tune threw the ball 38 times for 174 yards and four interceptions, while the ground game had only 77 yards. Again, Texas Tech has been known to have a good program; it’s the school that developed Patrick Mahomes, after all. But to let Texas Tech’s defense shut you out in the second half, all while getting four picks is just, uh, bad.

And yet Rice is the underdog probably due to the conference pecking order. However, the number has gone down a bit since opening at 9.5 in favor of Houston.

Prediction


Conventional wisdom dictates that the team that didn’t play well should play better in a rivalry game in football games. Not that we think Houston doesn’t win, but Rice should keep this a close game throughout, and would say single digits up until the second half. If you’re looking for a good play on a home dog, Rice may provide you some good value at +7.5.

Betting trends


Houston is 9-12 in its last 21 against the spread.

The under is 6-1 in Rice’s last seven games as a home underdog.

Statistical leaders


Houston:
Passing: Clayton Tune -- 174 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Mulbah Car -- 37 yards
Receiving: Nathaniel Dell -- 80 yards, 1 TD
Defense: Donavan Mutin -- 8 tackles

Rice:
Passing: Wiley Green -- 152 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Khalan Griffin -- 35 yards
Receiving: August Pitre III -- 97 yards, 1 TD
Defense: Antonio Montero -- 11 tackles, 1 sack

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All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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