Five things UNT fans should know about Rice

Rice running back Samuel Stewart caries the ball last season in a win over North Texas at Apogee Stadium. UNT will take on Rice in Houston on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Rice running back Samuel Stewart caries the ball last season in a win over North Texas at Apogee Stadium. UNT will take on Rice in Houston on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas will face Rice on Saturday in its Conference USA opener. The Mean Green are 1-2 after falling to Florida last week.

It’s a big game for both teams as they look to jump into the C-USA title chase. And in a side note, it is also this week’s ESPN Bottom 10 Pillow Fight of the Week. Rice is No. 1 in this week’s Bottom 10, while UNT is on the waiting list.

UNT lost its previous Pillow Fight of the Week 34-21 to SMU.

Here are five things UNT fans should know about the Owls:

1. Rice could be better than its record indicates

Rice is 0-3 on the season, but might be better than its record indicates. The Owls have a brutal schedule and have already lost to Western Kentucky, Army and Baylor.

Western Kentucky might be the best team in Conference USA, Baylor is ranked No. 16 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll and Army is 3-0. Both Western Kentucky and Army received votes in this week’s coaches poll.

The Owls have played what might be the toughest part of their schedule already and will be looking to get something going this week.

2. Rice can run the ball

The strength of Rice’s team is its running backs and running game in general. Darik Dillard has rushed for 195 yards this season and is averaging 6.3 yards a carry. Austin Walter, Jowan Davis and Samuel Stewart are also talented.

The Owls are averaging 143.7 rushing yards a game and will look to get their offense going behind their running game.

3. Former Lake Dallas standout Graysen Schantz is back

Former Lake Dallas standout Graysen Schantz is back in the Owls lineup after missing nearly all of last season due to injury. The junior was an All-C-USA Freshman Team selection in 2014. He has 7 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, this season. He could be a key factor in this weekend’s game. UNT’s offensive line has struggled at times and has given up 12 sacks this season.

4. Rice has turned to Tyler Stehling at quarterback

Rice has turned to Tyler Stehling at quarterback this season following the graduation of Driphus Jackson. The senior saw time as a backup in each of the last two seasons.

Stehling has thrown for 416 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for an additional 109 yards and a touchdown.

5. Rice is not particularly big defensively

Rice does not have a lot of size in its defensive front seven. Starting nose tackle Zach Abercrumbia weighs 290 pounds and is the Owls biggest defensive lineman. Middle linebacker Alex Lyons is 225 pounds. Rice has speed on defense, but could be vulnerable to a power running game.

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