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Charlotte 49ers vs. No. 1 Clemson Tigers: Preview & Prediction

Charlotte has proven to be a much better team under Will Healy but now they are faced with the ultimate test: Clemson.

The 49ers preparing to defend home field.
Photo Credit: Taron Dozier - IG: Thaalmightyroyaldon

Records: Charlotte (2-1, 0-0 C-USA) vs. #1 Clemson (3-0, ACC)

Date & Time: Saturday, September 21st, 7:30 PM

TV: ACC Network

Location: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina

Betting Line: Clemson -41.5, O/U: 62

All-Time Series Record: First matchup between the programs

Aaron McAllister celebrating a 49er touchdown.
Photo Credit: Sam Roberts/FreezeFrame

Charlotte 49ers outlook: This is the biggest stage in college football right now, but you can expect the 49ers to bring their best against the #1 Clemson Tigers.

“We want to shock the world,” Junior defensive back Jacione Fugate said at Tuesday’s press conference. “We’re not playing small. We want to play big. We want to take this program to where it hasn’t been. We aren’t going to lay down for anybody. We will never do that, I don’t care how weak we used to be. That’s not who we are now, things have changed.”

Coach Will Healy isn’t approaching this as if it’s Michigan being upset by Appalachian State in 2007, he is keeping all of the focus inside the walls of the Judy Rose Football Center.

“It’s about us.” Benny LeMay said in reference to the vibe in the locker room “Do the things that we know how to do. It’s not about who we are playing, it’s about us and what we can do, and what we do best.”

Charlotte had an extremely strong showing last season against SEC stalwart Tennessee, eventually falling 14-3. While this is a step up from the Volunteers, Charlotte will need to bring that same mindset and chip on their shoulder being 41.5 point underdogs.

The 49ers will be without three key defensive starters against the Tigers. Jeff Gemmell is recovering from a high ankle sprain, he won’t play Saturday but has a chance to return the following week for the C-USA opener against FAU. Tyriq Harris has missed every game this season with lower back tightness and will be inactive Saturday night. Ben DeLuca will undergo shoulder surgery on Friday, ending his season. He suffered the injury in the first quarter against Appalachian State, and he’s opting for the medical redshirt to have one final year of eligibility.

Keys to competing with Clemson:

  • Tackle on special teams
  • Put pressure on Trevor Lawrence
  • Utilize up-tempo offense

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Clemson Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson Tigers outlook: Clemson has won 18 straight dating back to the 2017 season, but Dabo Swinney’s Tigers aren’t taking the 49ers lightly.

“Charlotte is the most explosive team on our schedule to this point,” Swinney said Tuesday. “They have the best rushing attack so far on the schedule. This is a team that could embarrass us if we don’t prepare correctly.”

It’s hard to imagine any team embarrassing Clemson after last year’s national title performance and their impressive start to this year’s campaign. They can beat you on the ground or through the air and can take the wind right out of your offenses sails.

Trevor Lawrence hasn’t had the best start through three weeks, completing 60% of his passes for 831 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Expect him to get it going against the 49ers secondary.

Travis Etienne exploded for 205 yards and three scores against Georgia Tech in week one, and a big day could be in store as the 49ers are giving up 296 yards a game on the ground.

Showing up and sticking to their gameplan should give the #1 Tigers all they need to defend home field, but due to the relationship between the two head coaches, I would be shocked to see Swinney run up the score.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to a 19th straight win:

  • Take away the run game
  • Take advantage of poor special teams play
  • Start fast
  • Slow down Alex Highsmith

Prediction: The Charlotte 49ers have had an extremely hot start offensively through three weeks of the 2019 season, but those eye-popping numbers are going to take a major dip in Death Valley. Clemson is giving up only 10 points and 256 yards a game to three P5 opponents, with the highest point total all season (14) coming in week one against Georgia Tech. I believe the Tigers are going to show why they are number one, pulling away in the first half and beating Charlotte 52-10.