Last season the Green Wave defeated Rice in the Superdome, 38-24. Rice made a late season run and eventually made it to the New Orleans Bowl, while Tulane wound up with a losing season. Since that October Saturday both schools have undergone coaching changes, and while Tulane is struggling to adjust to a new offensive and defensive style of play, Rice has had it's own struggles. At this point in the season the Green Wave is 3-7, with a three game and two two-game losing streaks.
Rice is also 3-7 and has suffered through a four-game and three-game losing streaks.
Much like UTEP, the Owls struggle on defense, but the offense is first rate, averaging 39 points per game over the last six games.
One thing to consider in Rice's drop from 7-6 record last season to 3-7 in 2007 is that they are minus-3 in turnovers through 10 games this season after a strong +12 showing in the 2006 regular season.
That offense is a true passing circus, having thrown 404 times and rushed 331 times. The Owls do average a satisfactory 3.5 yards per attempt, and 114.9 yards per game, in totalling 377 yards of total offense per game.
Of the total of 39 offensive touchdowns, the passing game has accounted for 22.
The linchpin of the offense is quarterback Chase Clement. Clement leads the offense in both rushing and passing.
Through the air, Clement is responsibile for 2,491 yards and 22 touchdowns on 226 completions in 338 attempts. Clement, still a junior, has also thrown 15 interceptions.
Although he's on the Davy O'Brien Award watch list, Clement leads the team in rushing with 449 net yards and 8 touchdowns. The net rushing yardage total needs to be looked at in the context that he's been sacked 28 times for 236 yards, minus those sacks Clement averages about 7.5 yards per carry.
The running backs are true freshman Justin Hill, 5-11 and 208-pounds. Hill has rushed for 273 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.
Although the depth chart indicates Taylor Dupree, a 6-1 and 214-pound true freshman, is the backup running back, the stats show that the most work has fallen to C.J. Ugokwe, 5-11 and 213-pounds. Ugokwe has the best yard-per-carry average on the team at 4.4 ypc, and has netted 215 yards and a touchdown.
The top hand at wide receiver is junior Jarrett Dillard, 5-11 and 185-pounds. Dillard, a Pre-season All-American has made 64 catches for 881 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Sophomore Toren Dixon, 6-2 208, has 36 catches for 358 yards and 5 touchdowns. The big receiver averages 9.9 yards per catch, he seems to be the definition of the possession receiver.
A reserve, 6-4 245-pound James Casey, is third in receptions with 29-for-362 yards and two touchdowns. Casey, a former minor league baseball player, also lines up in the backfield and has played defensive end as well as on special teams. As a rusher. Casey has carried the ball 43 times for 112 yards and scored five touchdowns. On defense he's made 3 tackles and was credited with half-a-sack.
He played seven positions, including some quarterback, against USM but his passing stats show an interception in a 1-for-6 season total.
The depth chart shows the starter at tight end as being sophomore Chance Talbert, 6-5, and 290-pounds. Talbert seems to play mostly in short yardage situations, but has managed 2 catches for 21 yards.
The backup tight end, Taylor Wardlow, a 6-6, 230-pound sophomore, adds 11 catches for 139 yards and one score.
Running backs Ugokwe and Hill, each have made 9 catches for a combined 123 yards.
The offensive line has size and good experience, but 28 sacks allowed indicates that pass protection is a problem.
The starters are true freshman Scott Mitchell, 6-4, 270, at left tackle; senior Robby Heos, 6-3, 305-pounds at right guard; at center Jimmy Miller, 6-3, 305-pounds and a junior; junior David Berken, a 6-4, 295-pound junior at right guard; and 6-7, 300-pound senior Lute Barber at right tackle.
The 4-2-5 defense allows 508 yards of total offense per game, 196 yards rushing and 312 passing.
An average of 4.8 yards per rushing attempt indicates a weakness against the run, while the total of 17 sacks in ten games is a big dropoff from last season's total of 33 in 13 games.
The defensive front features former Tulane commitment Cheta Ozougwu, 6-2, 240-pounds at the right defensive end; senior George Chukwu, 6-2, 305-pounds at defensive tackle; senior Jonathan Cary, 6-3, 295-pounds, at nose guard; and a second true freshman at left defensive end in 6-3, 250-pound Scott Solomon.
Solomon leads the group with 36 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks and Chukwa has 23 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and a sack.
The middle linebacker, 6-1, 222-pound Brian Raines, has made 70 tackles, 10 of them for loss and 3 sacks to lead the group and rank second on the team.
Strong linebacker Vernon James, 6-1 and 220, is third on the team in tackles with 56 tackles, and 4 tackles-for-loss, including a sack.
The starting cornerbacks are senior Gary Anderson, 6-0, 180-pounds, and junior Brandon King, 5-9, 182-pounds. Anderson gets credit for an interception and 29 passes defended or broken up, while King has grabbed 3 interceptions and is credited with 27 passes defended or broken up.
The top hand in the secondary is soph free safety Andrew Sendejo, 6-1, 213. Sendejo leads the team in tackles with 83, and in interceptions with four. He's also credited with a total of 16 passes defended or broken up.
Leary has made 28 tackles, while White has a total of 21 tackles to his credit, with 5.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks among them.
The Owl punter is Luke Juist who averages 39.4 yards per punt. The punt cover unti struggles somewhat, allowing 11.6 yards per return, which makes the net punting average only 31.4.
Juist also handles the kickoffs and averages 60 yards per return, which puts kickoffs on average at the opponents 10.
The kickoff cover unit is better than it's punt cover counterpart allowing 20.9 yards per return.
Place kicking chores are handled by sophomore Clark Fangmeier, a consensus All-C-USA freshman team member after last season, is 6-of-9 on field goals, 3-of-5 inside the 40, with a long of 46 yards.
Fangmeier has made 37-of-38 PAT's.
The return game is primarily in the hands of Ja'corey Shepherd, who averages only 4.6 yards per punt return on 17 returns, improving to a very average kickoff return average of 19.6 per attempt on 20 attempts. Tyler Smith averages a slightly better 21.8 yards per return on 14 kick off returns.
Tulane shouldn't be overmatched personnel-wise against Rice. It's another case of a strong passing attack against a weak pass defense, and a strong running game against a weak run defense. The key to controlling Rice's passing attack will be the Tulane defense's ability to bring pressure on Chase Clement. Statistics indicate that this can get done. If so, the Green Wave has an excellent chance to fly home with a win.