Who Has The Edge

PurpleWildcats.com gives an in-depth look at Northwestern and Rice, and finds which team has the edge in Saturday's showdown at Ryan Field.

When Rice has the Ball:

This will hinge largely on Northwestern's defense.

Rice has a decent offense, with quarterbacks Taylor McHargue and Nick Fanuzzi combining for over 1700 yards. Running back Tyler Smith has improved as the season has gone on, as well.

However, while Rice can score, the Northwestern defense has a chance to play well, considering the Owls have struggled against good defenses.

Last week, the Wildcats were very impressive, holding star Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead to just 69 yards rushing and containing the rushing ability of quarterback Taylor Martinez.

It was the most complete performance of the year for the NU defense and it finally showed the potential that many thought this unit had going into the season.

If the Cats play like they did against the Huskers, they can have another solid statistical game, but if they play like they did in previous weeks, Rice could have a chance to stay in the game.

Edge: Northwestern

When Northwestern Has the Ball

This is a mismatch if you ever saw one, bigger even than Northwestern's offensive mismatch against Indiana.

The NU offense has been rolling the past two weeks, demolishing Indiana and then handling a solid Nebraska defense.

Kain Colter has been phenomenal in the past two weeks, making plays at quarterback, receiver and running back, and when his number was called due to a Dan Persa injury late in the second half, he did an admirable job managing the game at quarterback.

The rushing offense has come along the past two weeks despite the absence of Mike Trumpy, as the offensive line opened up huge holes on NU's last scoring drive against the Huskers—a 13-play, all-run drive.

When it clicks, the NU offense might be the most dangerous in the Big Ten. It has an outstanding passing game, quarterbacks who can run and is finally finding solid production from the running backs.

Combine that with Rice's No. 115 scoring defense, and this game has the makings of a blowout.

Edge: Northwestern

Special Teams

The Northwestern special teams continued their inconsistent play against Nebraska.

Kick coverage was very solid and Brandon Williams' punts weren't bad, but Jeff Budzien had a missed field goal, pushing him to just five-for-nine on the season.

Kicking has been a strength for Rice, as Chris Boswell has hit all 27 of his extra points and 14-of-16 field goals with a long of 51.

Don't expect this game to come down to a field goal, but Rice should have the advantage on special teams.

Edge: Rice


While last week's game was won on the field, Northwestern's coaches certainly helped out with an outstanding gameplan.

The Cats gave Martinez short passes and focused on containing the quarterback's running abilities, as well as bottling up Burkhead.

After the game, Martinez accused NU of stealing signs, and while Fitzgerald said he didn't know the exact plays the Huskers were running, he did say that he saw some tendencies on film that his team was able to take advantage of.

Rice coach David Bailiff is in his fifth season as head coach, and while he has done a good job getting his team motivated to play top competition at times—the Owls beat Purdue 24-22 earlier this year—the edge still goes to Fitzgerald and company.

Edge: Northwestern


Northwestern has tons of momentum right now, following the offensive showcase at Indiana and the big upset at Nebraska.

The Wildcats are coming home for the final three games of the season, needing to win two of the three to become bowl eligible.

Expect NU to be motivated coming in, riding a wave of confidence, but still having a sense of urgency to reach bowl eligibility.

Edge: Northwestern


Expect Northwestern to easily avoid a letdown, as its offense rolls the weak Rice defense.

The Cats won't put up 73 against the Owls like Houston did, but the combination of Dan Persa and Kain Colter will be way too much for the Rice defense to handle.

The NU defense will also have a solid day, and while it likely won't be as good as last week—that was near perfection for this unit—it will still have a decent game.

Expect the Cats to get to .500 for the first time since October 1.

Score: Northwestern 51, Rice 23

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