CHARLOTTE 49ERS (4-5, 2-3 C-USA) vs UTEP MINERS (1-7, 0-5 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 9th, 3:00 PM ET
Location: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
Betting Line: Charlotte -13 (O/U 57)
All-Time Series Record: Inaugural matchup between the two programs
Charlotte has won back-to-back games for the first time since 2016 and is sitting at 4-5, two victories away from being bowl eligible for the first time in program history. This seems like an exciting time for the 49ers, but if you ask head coach Will Healy, this Charlotte team hasn’t arrived.
“If we are getting a fat head because we’re 4-5, then you have different expectations than I do,” Healy said at Tuesday’s press conference. “We should be disappointed that we’ve lost five games, and be hungrier now than ever.”
The 49ers were without starting running back Benny LeMay last week against Middle Tennessee, but junior tailback Aaron McAllister answered the call, turning in a 104 yard and two touchdown performance in front of Queen City’s finest. LeMay is questionable again this week with soreness in his Achilles, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him miss this week’s contest with a bye week on the horizon.
Charlotte held dual-threat QB Asher O’Hara in check in last week’s victory and will look to do more of the same against Kai Locksley and the Miners offense. Alex Highsmith and Markees Watts have proven to be a deadly tandem attacking from the defensive end positions, ranking second and third in C-USA with 8.5 and 7.5 sacks respectively. UTEP has given up 28 sacks on the season, and you can expect that number to rise on Saturday.
The 49ers offensive line has been dominant, giving up only 15 sacks on the season, and only 2 in the past two weeks. “I would rate myself a 99,” said Senior O-Lineman Cameron Clark “Somebody’s got to do it.” In reference to his rating on a potential new NCAA Football game. Clark and the 49ers offensive line have paved the way for 211 yards on the ground per game, leading C-USA.
Chris Reynolds has been sensational as of late and has been turnover-free in the past two victories, a trend that the 49ers would love to carry on to a third straight win. The 49ers have found success with the Run-Pass-Option (RPO), and have been slicing and dicing opponents defenses for 32.1 points per game on the season. Expect Victor Tucker to be heavily involved in the passing game, as he leads the 49ers with 549 yards and four touchdowns.
The 49ers must secure their first road victory of the season to get back to .500 and position themselves for a run at bowl eligibility.
The Miners are on a seven-game losing skid, with their lone victory of the season coming in week one against the Houston Baptist Huskies on a go-ahead field goal midway through the fourth quarter. Their closest margin of loss since was 10 points at home against UTSA, another struggling C-USA team.
Things aren’t looking too hot for Dana Dimel and the Miners. North Texas quarterback Mason Fine tossed 5 touchdowns against Charlotte two weeks ago, and 7 against UTEP last week, exposing both secondaries. The Miners have given up the most passing touchdowns in C-USA this season with 22. This doesn’t bode well going into this week’s matchup as Charlotte’s best running back Benny LeMay will be a game-time decision, potentially leaving the load on the arm of sophomore quarterback Chris Reynolds.
Treyvon Hughes has been a bright spot for UTEP’s offense this season, with an average of 4.6 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns. He will spearhead the offensive attack against the 49ers run defense who ranks 11th in C-USA, giving up nearly 200 yards per contest.
The Miners have two options under center in Brandon Jones and Kai Locksley, with the latter getting the majority of the reps the past few weeks. Locksley has dual-threat ability and is the second leading rusher on the team with 279 yards and 3 scores. Neither QB has had much success in the passing game, and have actually thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4) on the season.
UTEP is allowing 36.5 points per game, and the only team in C-USA giving up more is the Charlotte 49ers with 37.1. If they are going to get their offense going, now is the time.
PREDICTION & FINAL SCORE
Charlotte is looking to win three consecutive C-USA games for the first time in program history, and I think they are going to do just that. Chris Reynolds & co. are playing at a high level offensively, and I don’t believe UTEP can match Charlotte’s firepower as the Miners are scoring only 19 points per game. Charlotte 38, UTEP 17