Marshall (1-2, 0-0) at Rice (1-2, 0-0)
3:30 p.m. EDT today, Rice Stadium (47,000, FieldTurf Duraspine), Houston
TV: WCHS, Channel 8 in Charleston-Huntington, Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast
Crew: Bernie Guenther play-by-play, Chuck Oliver analyst, Rachel Baribeau sidelines
Line: Marshall by 3
Series: Marshall leads 2-1
Last meeting: Marshall 24, Rice 20, Oct. 15, 2011 at Huntington
Tickets: Supply is no problem and parking is free, $20-$40 (youth general admission $10).
Weather: This is Big 12/C-USA weather, folks - mostly sunny, light winds, high 91.
On the spot
Jeremiah Taylor and Alex Bazzie, Marshall defensive ends: Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue is a running threat to the tune of 69 yards per game, but the Owls have yielded 11 sacks - six by UCLA. So the Herd ends must funnel McHargue inside and cash in on sack opportunities.
Marshall offensive line: If you can't run against Rice, who can you run against? Time for this unit, which welcomes John Bruhin and Garrett Scott back on a full-time basis, to have a good run-blocking afternoon.
Bryce Callahan, Rice cornerback: The 2011 Freshman All-American had two interceptions against Kansas, and it's not a coincidence that the Owls won. But in the other two games, opposing QBs enjoy an astronomical passer rating of 195.4. One figures the Owls have to resort to much man-to-man coverage, a byproduct of struggling against the run. Good luck, gentlemen.
Stats 'n' such
Marshall has converted on 28 of 53 third-down chances, 52.8 percent. That's ahead of the Herd's best mark in its Division I-A/FBS era, the 50.5 percent in 2001. ... Rice is 17-11 in C-USA home games since coming into the league with Marshall in 2005, and the Herd is 7-21 in its league road games.
In the stat rankings: The school once known as Quarterback U. is standing above all in passing yardage (425.0), is 10th in total yardage (550.3) and 16th in net punting (40.8). Rakeem Cato is first in total yardage (422.7), though he is 40th in pass efficiency (148.5). Aaron Dobson is 10th in receptions (8.0). ... On the flip side, the Herd is 110th in rushing defense (224.7), 111th in scoring defense (40.0) and 114th in sacks (2 total, .67 average).
For Rice, Chris Boswell is No. 8 in field goals (2.0, including that 57-yarder), but the Owls are bottoming out in several team categories: pass efficiency defense (109th, 162.9), sacks allowed (112th, 3.7), punt returns (113th, minus-0.5), total defense (117th, 531.3), scoring defense (118th, 43.0), rushing defense (119th, 290.3).
Milestones: Dobson has 23 career touchdown receptions, which is tied for fifth on the school's all-time list. One more ties him for fourth with Troy Brown (1991-92). Cato already has lifted his career completion percentage to 63.7 percent, which would put him second behind Byron Leftwich and ahead of Chad Pennington.
1,000 Total yards. Marshall averages 550, gives up 463; Rice averages 413, gives up 531. You do the math.
2 Sacks by Marshall, which would match the Herd's season total.
Completely useless trivia
Rice Stadium opened in 1950, but the Owls didn't have an undefeated home season until their 52nd season there in 2001. The Owls were 5-0 that season and 6-0 in 2008, leading to overall records of 8-4 and 10-3, respectively. An obvious difference: Rice was in the Southwest Conference through its 1995 collapse, then played in the Western Athletic Conference from 1995-2004 and Conference USA from 2005-present.
Marshall steps out of conference for the final time and takes another step up in competition with a trip to Purdue. Game time at Ross-Ade Stadium is 3:15 p.m. next Saturday, and you're going to have to hunt down the Big Ten Network to see it on the tube. ... Rice hits the road, traveling all of 3 miles to Reliant Stadium to take on crosstown rival Houston, also at 3:30 p.m. That's a Fox Sports Net telecast.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.