Date: Saturday, October 26th, 2019
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST / 2:30 p.m. CST
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Records: North Texas, 3-4 (2-1 C-USA), Charlotte, 2-5 (0-3 C-USA)
Betting Line: North Texas -4 (O/U 65)
All-Time Series Record: Inaugural meeting between the two programs.
NORTH TEXAS PREVIEW
The Mean Green got a much-needed win last week, duking it out with an underrated Middle Tennessee squad. As they head out east for their second-longest road trip of the season, UNT will need to size-up and deal with Charlotte in short order, as the 49ers are enjoying their best season since joining Conference USA.
Despite leaving with a shoulder injury two weeks ago against Southern Miss, Mason Fine was back to his usual heroics last week against Middle Tennessee, and will show no signs of stopping in front of the Charlotte crowd. On the season, the 49er defense has struggled a lot more than the Blue Raiders (particularly against the run), and if Tre Siggers is back on the field this week, that will spell extra trouble for the home team.
Siggers comes into the game with 69 carries for 502 yards and four touchdowns on the season, after suiting up but not playing last week. If he’s even at half-strength, Charlotte would be wise to keep an eye on him and fellow RB DeAndre Torrey.
In the air, Charlotte will have their work cut out for them. Middle Tennessee has already racked up a better record than Charlotte, and Fine threw for 375 yards last week against a stingy MTSU defense. The 49ers will have to hope that the home town crowd— and the miles traveled— will help keep UNT’s output to a minimum.
For the first time in nearly a month the 49ers get to play in front of their home crowd in the Queen City. The last matchup at Jerry Richardson stadium was a 45-27 loss at the hands of FAU on Charlotte’s homecoming, so it’s safe to say the home team has something to prove.
Four consecutive losses can derail the progress of any program, but this team’s optimism for progression has provided faith in redemption for this season and furthermore. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said sophomore wideout Victor Tucker at Tuesday’s press conference. “We know the things we have to work on, and we come every day in practice and get better.”
Benny LeMay, C-USA’s leader in all purpose yards, has only six carries in the fourth quarter all season for the 49ers. Although there have been multiple occasions where they are playing from behind, the bottom line is that Charlotte must get their best player the ball late in games. Western Kentucky held LeMay to a season-low 45 rushing yards last weekend, but I expect a bounce-back performance is in store against a Mean Green defense giving up over 180 yards on the ground.
Slowing down a healthy Mason Fine is a tall task, and his quick release and ability to read the entire field has made it tough to apply pressure in the pocket. The 49ers have already broken their sack total from 2018, and have racked up 23 sacks through seven games. Marcus West had no problem dialing up the blitz against WKU, but the 49ers must disrupt the senior quarterback with their front four. If they don’t get home when they bring the blitz, Fine and the explosive North Texas offense will put on a clinic.
Will Healy doesn’t have a signature win to this point in the season, but it seems like the best shot the 49ers have to secure their first conference victory is in a shootout.
PREDICTION & FINAL SCORE
It benefits the conference for every team to do well, and I’m as excited as anyone to see an improved Charlotte squad this year. Having said that, I don’t see that they’ve turned the corner yet, particularly coming into this game 0-3 in conference. Thrilled to see these teams finally play each other, but have to call it: North Texas 35, Charlotte 17
This is the kind of matchup that comes down to which defense can secure a crucial stop. Both defensive units are giving up upwards of 400 yards and 30 points per contest, so it’s safe to say an offensive explosion is in line. Head coach Will Healy said it best, “There is such a small margin for error for us right now.” This could be the turning point in the season for the 49ers, and defending home-field in dramatic fashion provides the fuel they need to make a run. Charlotte 45, North Texas 42