Week 12 - SMU at Rice

Posted Nov 16, 2012

Week 12 Fearless Prediction & Game Preview – SMU at Rice

SMU (5-5) at Rice (4-6) Nov. 17, 3:30, CSS

Here's The Deal: SMU and Rice are meeting for the 90th time, with the Mayor's Cup—and bowl eligibility—hanging in the balance.

The Mustangs and the Owls are eyeing a spot in the postseason. Heck, if SMU can win its next two games, it'll capture the West Division in its final year in Conference USA. June Jones' team has taken three of its last four games to rally back to the .500 mark. The Mustangs' only loss came against UCF, the team it would face in the league title game.

Rice is finishing strong, which may or may not save head coach David Bailiff's job. The Owls ousted Southern Miss and Tulane on consecutive Saturdays to keep hopes for a bonus game alive deeper into November than usual. Last week's victory in the Superdome was especially meaningful because it was the program's first on the road in a league game in four years.

Why SMU Might Win: No one in the country is creating more turnovers than the Mustangs.

SMU has been making hidden gains all season, snuffing out drives, and even producing points from the defensive side of the ball. Beyond just the takeaways, it's also tied for the national lead in pick-sixes. The D is littered with playmakers and ball-hawks, like DE Margus Hunt, LB Taylor Reed and DBs Kenneth Acker and Jay Smith. At some point in this game, one of the defenders is going to make a momentum-changing play.

Why Rice Might Win: If they can avoid the turnovers, this Owls offense has pop.

Rice has produced 93 points in the last two games, using balance and timely conversions to move the ball downfield. It'll have the edge at quarterback, with dual-threat Taylor McHargue making things happen with his feet and his arm. He, Charles Ross and Turner Petersen have all rushed for at least 496 yards this season.

What To Watch Out For: Sure, the Owls can run the ball, but can they stop the run? More specifically, can they stop SMU standout Zach Line? Rice ranks 102nd in the country, while allowing well over five yards a carry. Line is a veteran bulldozer, the kind of back who'll move a pile in short yardage. The Mustangs offense has been sketchy and unpredictable in 2012, but not because of No. 48, who has gone over 1,000 yards in three straight years.

What Will Happen: SMU and Rice will begin kickoff with a lot at stake and plenty of motivation. The Mustangs are going to leave Houston on Saturday night with the dream of a West Division title still alive. While there's not a ton of separation between the long-time rivals, SMU has the better defenses and just a few extra producers. One of them, Line, will rush for more than 100 yards, score twice and help earn the visitors a hard-fought win.

CFN Prediction: SMU 30 … Rice 26
Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) SMU -3.5 O/U: 57
Must Watch Rating (5 – Killing Them Softly, 1 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2): 1.5