(The Sports Network) - The Tulsa Golden Hurricane entertain the Rice Owls this weekend in a Conference USA affair at Skelly Stadium.
The Hurricane is coming off a big road win, as they upended Notre Dame, 28-27, this past weekend. It marked Tulsa's first victory over a BCS opponents since topping Oklahoma State all the way back in 1998. Winners of two straight, the Hurricane are now 5-3 overall as they return back to C-USA play.
The Owls meanwhile, had the week off as they continue their final road trip of the season. Rice kicked off its current three-game road swing on October 23rd, dropping a 41-14 decision at UCF. The Owls are now just 1-3 in the conference and will conclude their road trek at Tulane next weekend.
The all-time series between Rice and Tulsa is knotted at 7-7-1 following a 27-10 victory by the Hurricane in last season's meeting.
The Owls haven't had much success on offense this season and that remained true last game, when they managed only 229 yards in a lopsided loss to UCF. QB Nick Fanuzzi was sacked six times in the defeat and he finished the game with 84 yards and a TD on 10-of-14 pass attempts. Protecting the QB has been a problem for Rice, as the team has allowed 22 sacks already. Despite the constant pressure, Fanuzzi hasn't been all that bad, completing an efficient 63.6 percent of his pass attempts for an average of 174.2 ypg. TB Sam McGuffie is also a big part of the offense, as he leads the team with 464 rushing yards. He is also a threat in the passing game, topping the roster with 32 catches and 275 receiving yards. He got involved against UCF with a receiving TD and 65 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
Rice has had issues on the defensive side of the ball, where the team is giving up 432.2 total ypg. The pass defense has really been poor for the Owls, who are surrendering 286.5 ypg with 18 TDs through the air. Against UCF, Rice gave up 391 total yards, below its season average, but the defense permitted six TDs. The defense recorded two takeaways and the same amount of sacks, though those numbers were meaningless in a blowout loss. Travis Bradshaw paced the team in the loss with nine tackles, an INT and forced fumble. It was an all-around effort from Bradshaw, who ranks second on the team with 57 stops for the season.
Damaris Johnson caught a TD pass and returned a punt 59 yards for a score late in the third quarter, helping Tulsa upend Notre Dame this past weekend. He finished the game with four receptions for 46 yards, giving him a team-high 31 catches for the year. Getting Johnson the ball was QB G.J. Kinne, who overcame five sacks to throw for 196 yards and a TD. A dual-threat, Kinne was equally as effective with his legs, tallying 78 of the team's 203 rushing yards. It was another strong performance from Kinne, who has now thrown for 16 TDs against just six INTs. He is also a big part of a ground game that is churning out over 200 rushing ypg despite the presence of a go-to back. The Hurricane has plenty of weapons on offense and the coaches do a terrific job getting them all involved.
Tulsa has given up its fair share of yards this season, but has compensated at times by make big plays. That was the case last weekend, when the Hurricane overcame 458 total yards gained by Notre Dame with four takeaways. Shawn Jackson had a 66-yard INT return for a TD, but that wasn't nearly as important as John Flanders' pick in the end zone with 36 seconds left to preserve the victory. The Hurricane now have 12 INTs on the season, with four coming from Dexter McCoil.
Tulsa turned in a team effort last weekend and should have no trouble rolling past Rice behind its powerful attack and opportunistic defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulsa 41, Rice 17