Start Time: Saturday, September 23rd, 6pm ET
Streaming: CUSA TV
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium
Series: Charlotte leads 1-0
Odds: Charlotte (PK) 51 total
Georgia State Outlook
After a week two bye, GSU made the trip to State College and were crushed by Penn State. The Nittany Lions dropped eight touchdowns on GSU and it was a long time for the program from Atlanta. For the season, Shawn Elliott’s squad squad has only scored one touchdown, their defense is giving up 7.6 yards per play, and are currently minus nine in the turnover margin. That is ugly.
There were some good things to take from the Penn State beating as the Panthers finally had some success in the rushing department. Taz Bateman ran for 100 yards on 29 carries against the Big Ten defense in week three. Elliott was brought in to establish the running game for a program that hasn’t averaged over 100 yards on the ground per game since 2013. This was a nice starting point after a brutal debut against Tennessee State.
Offensive coordinator Travis Trickett has played two quarterbacks multiple snaps in both games and the Panthers are still searching for answers. After getting knocked out of the opener, senior Conner Manning tossed three interceptions and really struggled in Beaver Stadium. Aaron Winchester has replaced Manning in each game and he’s put up some very good passing numbers in a limited sample size. Winchester is completing 67% of his passes and is averaging 11.3 yards per attempt. Winchester also gives the offense a zone read look and is a very effective runner. If Manning keeps turning the ball over, I could see the coaching staff making a move.
The offense is getting most of the attention because of their turnover issues and the lack of touchdowns, but quietly this defense has been pretty awful to start the year. Opponents are averaging over six yards per carry and over 250 passing yards per game.
The rush defense obviously needs a lot of work as the GSU front seven is just getting gashed. Causing havoc has been an issue as the team only has seven tackles for loss at this point in the season. This has to improve or opponents will continue to post big numbers.
Turnovers, much like the offense, has been a big issue for Nate Fuqua’s defense. The Panthers have yet to produce a takeaway and that is not a good mix for a run defense that cannot stop a nosebleed at this point of the year. GSU has only forced one fumble and stud corners Jerome Smith and Chandon Sullivan desperately need to chip in with some interceptions.
Heading into the season, the Charlotte program had expectations for the first time since joining FBS. Hasaan Klugh emerged as a playmaker from the quarterback position last fall as the 49ers pulled off C-USA upsets as double-digit underdogs against Florida Atlantic, Marshall, and Southern Miss. With some experience back on both sides of the football, there was a chance Charlotte could make a run at six wins and their first bowl appearance in program history.
The offense has really struggled as offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen’s group has had a hard time in the passing game. After being solid as a first year starter, Klugh is only completing 41% of his passes and has thrown seven interceptions in just three games. That’s just not going to get the job done and this passing inefficiency has really put the offense in a hole.
On the ground, however, Klugh has been dynamic as he’s second on the team in rushing yards and has scored two touchdowns. Benny LeMay has been impressive as a sophomore after receiving limited touches in 2016. The North Carolina native is averaging 7.4 yards per carry and should get more carries as the season progresses.
Much like Georgia State, turnovers have been a been a big issue for this Charlotte offense as the 49ers have lost two fumbles to go along with the interceptions Klugh has tossed. Ball security must get better for this offense to reach its potential.
On the other side of the football, Charlotte is allowing over six yards per play and the ground game is really hurting the defense. The 49ers are giving up 197 rushing yards per game and that is not giving them much of a chance to stop anyone.
Karrington King has been very active from his inside linebacker position as the senior has posted 27 tackles in just three games. He and sophomore linebacker Jeff Gemmell are combining to average 17 stops per game and they have been the heart of the Charlotte defense.
The 49ers are struggling to produce negative plays as the team has only collected 13 tackles for loss and four sacks in three games. That’s just not going to get it done and, much like Georgia State, this is a big reason why the run defense has been so putrid to start the season.
These two squads are really clones at this point in the season as both are young programs who are trying to find themselves. In 2017, both teams are struggling to stop the run and are getting toasted in the turnover battle. Each has lost to an FCS squad at home and are desperate for their first victory.
In their second road game of the season, Georgia State must prove Taz Bateman’s effort was not a fluke against Penn State and the Panthers need to establish the run against a bad front seven to take some pressure off of their quarterbacks. The defense needs to start forcing some turnovers and that front seven has to start playing to their potential.
For Charlotte, head coach Brad Lambert needs to start getting productive play out of quarterback Hasaan Klugh. The dual-threat needs to take care of the football and run it when the opportunities are there. Much like GSU, turnovers will be huge in this non-conference clash and the 49ers need to come away with a few.
With both teams having their backs against the wall, expect a very hard fought game on Saturday evening. I believe both offenses will have success against defenses that are really laboring. A late fourth quarter turnover will be the difference.
Prediction: Charlotte 31, Georgia State 27