Game Preview - Rice
by justinrsutton Follow @justinrsutton
The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Rice Owls will square off for the first time on the gridiron New Years Eve in Memphis in the Autozone Liberty Bowl. The Owls qualified for the game by knocking off Marshall in the Conference USA championship while Mississippi State qualified by going 6-6.
In the Owls, the Bulldogs will face an opponent that likes to run the football to pick up yardage. The Rice rushing attack averaged 240 yards per game, good for the 16th best such attack in the country. Charles Ross led the rushing attack for Rice, picking up 1252 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground and averaging 6.2 yards a carry. The quarterback, Taylor McHargue, can also be a threat on the ground, rushing for 466 yards and five scores. Through the air, he picked up 2261 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jordan Taylor and Dennis Parks both picked up yards in bunches on the receiving end of passes, earning 15.7 and 18.1 yards per catch respectively. Taylor also hauled in eight touchdown receptions.
For the Bulldogs, the first order of business will be to control the line of scrimmage. If the defensive line can create problems for the Rice rushing attack, it could turn into a long day at the office for the Owls. On the flip side, should the Owls be able to keep their running attack viable, Mississippi State will feel the pressure of an offense that averaged 31.4 points per game.
Defensively, Rice gave up 155 yards a game on the ground and proved to be very solid against the pass, ranking 13th in the country by giving up 195 yards a contest. Rice also gave up 22.9 points per game, good for 32nd in the country.
For Mississippi State to be successful on the offensive side of the football, the Bulldogs need to dominate in the running game and make their passes count when the opportunity presents itself. If the Bulldogs cannot run in this contest, they will face considerable pressure to move the ball through the air.