Location: McColl-Richardson Field in Charlotte, NC
Game Time: 3:30 PM ET
How To Watch: ESPN+
Series History: In 2017, the only meeting to date between these two teams, Western Kentucky were able to play one of their better games of the season and win 45-14. WKU QB Mike White accounted for six touchdowns in that game.
As sad as it may be to say, a 2-3 record is a better spot than some thought Charlotte would be in at the beginning of the season. A change in quarterback put Chris Reynolds under center for the 49ers and he has played well in spots going 88 of 135 for 1054 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Benny Lemay has also added a strong punch to the rushing attack averaging 82.8 yards per game, the fourth highest average in C-USA. That’s not enough to save head coach Brad Lambert’s job by any means, but there’s definitive improvement in this team from last year.
While Lambert may have the hottest seat in C-USA, WKU head coach Mike Sanford’s seat is heating up rapidly. The Tops are 1-4 to start the season with their one victory coming against Ball State on the road. WKU have been competitive though, with three of the four losses being by just three points. A big issue they’ve encountered has been leaving points on the board. Missing fifty percent of their field goals and scoring on less than 69% of their trips to the red zone, each of those scores could have made a big difference in the aforementioned losses. Just look to last WKU’s last outing against Marshall where they had a chance to win it at the end, but fumbled the ball away at the opposing ten-yard line.
The defense has been the strongest part of WKU’s game this year. Linebacker Ben Holt leads the team in tackles with 8.6 per game. He has also had six tackles for loss on the year. WKU’s secondary is also playing relatively well with five total interceptions and allowing an average of 220 yards per game through the air. The defense has produced seven total turnovers, which is a respectable total, but that makes it all the more frustrating for WKU fans that the team has only managed one win.
Along with whether or not WKU can finish drives, how well WKU defends Lemay and the 49ers’ running game will be huge. The secondary should be able to contain the passing attack, so getting aggressive as far as blitzes and getting the front six into the backfield could create more turnovers, this giving the Tops’ offense more chances to win.
WKU’s defense should be able to keep Charlotte’s offense in check, or at least be able to get more stops than the 49ers. Offensively, the Tops will score some points, but likely leave even more off the board due to issues with red zone execution.
Western Kentucky wins 28-17.