Before going any further, one thing must be made crystal-clear.
It's not UNC Charlotte, UNC-Charlotte, UNCC or UNC-C. It certainly isn't UNC, because that would mean grouping them with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the one that's found themselves in the midst of a little mishap regarding student-athletes and the courses they took, or didn't take. (Google "UNC African American Studies" if you need to be filled in.)
If you're referring to the athletic programs at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, kindly refer to them as just "Charlotte". Hang around 49ers fans long enough, and you'll learn that fairly quickly.
With that out of the way, let's discuss Charlotte and their still young football program, which went 5-6 as an FCS independent last season and defeated a top-25 program in Gardner-Webb along the way. By the way, ask any fan that was there that day how the team came back to win that particular game. Also ask them about the first game of the season, the first-ever game, against Campbell, and about the elation they felt when Mark Hogan ran back the Camels' second play from scrimmage for a touchdown, the first interception - and touchdown - in program history.
But there were some downs, like losing to schools like D-II UNC Pembroke and D-III Wesley College, schools that you should probably be beating if you're preparing to make the jump to FBS in a couple of years. But that's in the past. The team's focus is squarely on the future, getting their practices in and beginning their preparations for August 28 at Campbell. (Fall workouts began bright and early last Wednesday and will soon shift to later in the day to prepare for the Campbell contest, a 7pm kickoff.)
Officially, since they aren't a part of FBS yet, we won't cover the 49ers in-depth throughout the year. That's in the works for next season. But what should we expect from this team in 2014? More high points and more bumps in the road.
Charlotte probably won't win every single game on their schedule (home against Charleston Southern, Football Championship quarterfinalist Coastal Carolina and a receding but still talented James Madison program, plus tough road games at Gardner-Webb and The Citadel are some of the highlights), but they'll at least have a year of experience under their belts going in, hoping to set a positive tone for FBS in 2015 when they play the Georgia State Panthers, Temple Owls, and, reportedly, Kentucky Wildcats in non-conference play.
Not the Alabamas, Auburns and Nebraskas of the world, but still a great way to get their feet wet before diving into the conference schedule and preparing to play for bowl consideration in 2016.
Just make sure you call them by the correct name.