Charlotte Outlook: Heading into the contest at 2-7, it's clearly been a rough year for the start up 49ers. Head coach Brad Lambert is tasked with quickly getting the Charlotte program up to speed with the rest of Conference USA. Early season wins against Georgia State and Presbyterian gave Charlotte a winning streak to start the season but a lack of production from the quarterbacks has the program on a seven game losing swing.
Charlotte's offense moves at a torrid pace (seventh fastest in the country) but their pace typically just puts more pressure back onto the defense due to the lack of efficiency in the passing game. The 49ers' quarterbacks have been downright awful this year. Lee McNeil, Matt Johnson, and Brooks Barden have combined for 19 interceptions, 33 sacks, and just seven touchdowns, all while completing less than 56% of their passes. Lambert hasn't announced a starter for this game but it's hard to imagine him feeling much comfort with any of his options.
The only real bright spot on offense for Charlotte is 5'10", 205 pound running back Kalif Phillips. While under the radar in CUSA, Phillips has as much talent as the rest of the skilled running backs in CUSA. He averages over five yards per carry despite Charlotte's woeful offensive line.
While the offense might be pitiful, Charlotte's defense actually has some playmakers. The 49ers like to play behind the line of scrimmage where they've totaled 60 tackles for loss on the season. That includes 14 sacks and 16 forced fumbles.
Charlotte plays a ton of kids on defense so the production is balanced but former walk-on redshirt junior Terrance Winchester really pops off the stat sheet. The 6'1" corner has totaled 37 tackles, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.
6'3", 294 pound defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi is probably the 49ers' most talented player on defense. Despite being a defensive tackle, he's current third on the team in tackles with nine of those coming behind the line of scrimmage. UTSA's interior offensive line will need to keep Ogunjobi in check.
UTSA Outlook: Stringing together losses to Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, North Texas, and Old Dominion, the Roadrunners are suffering through their worst year of football in their brief existence. Injuries and inexperience have been issues, but UTSA just isn't a very good football team if we're keeping things cut-and-dry.
Throughout the recent four game skid, walk-on quarterback Dalton Sturm has gotten progressively better, throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns against Old Dominion. Head coach Larry Coker recently, finally, announced that Sturm would be placed on scholarship next season-- a lone feel-good story in a season full of disappointment.
UTSA hopes for standouts Jarveon Williams (RB) and Brian Price (DT) to return from injury after missing snaps against ODU.
The 1-8 record won't show it, but this team still has some solid talent. Tight end David Morgan's production is dropping but he's still arguably the best tight end in the conference. Wide receivers JaBryce Taylor and Kerry Thomas Jr. have been very solid all year. Cornerback Trevor Baker and linebacker Drew Douglas have been outstanding on the defensive side of the ball.
Unfortunately for UTSA, the team has just never been able to put it all together this season. They've struggled through adversity and have appeared unprepared for much of what this season has thrown at them. Special teams miscues have been a particular issue as at least one major error has sorely hurt the Roadrunners in each contest this season.
Prediction: For as bad as UTSA has been this season, I still think they can easily top Charlotte given the gap in sheer talent. While it seems to be asking a lot to ask this UTSA team to put together a clean, complete game, they should be able to overcome mistakes against a team of Charlotte's caliber. Give me a Roadrunner victory in a game that ends up being way closer than it should.