Records: Charlotte (2-2, 0-0 C-USA) vs. FAU (2-2, 0-0 C-USA)
Date & Time: Saturday, September 28th, 3:30 PM
TV: NFL Network
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Betting Line: Charlotte -1 O/U: 65
All-Time Series Record: Tied 2-2 (FAU won the matchup 31-12 in 2017, and Charlotte won 27-24 in the final week of the 2018 season.)
Pushing the reset button is crucial for the 49ers as they enter conference play an even 2-2. The final game of Brad Lambert’s tenure ended in dramatic fashion with Jonathon Cruz ousting FAU’s bowl chances from 56-yards away with no time remaining. The 49ers haven’t forgotten that feeling, and I can guarantee you Lane Kiffin & co. are ready for revenge.
We saw Chris Reynolds force the issue against the top-ranked Clemson Tigers, but I think he will settle in against the Owl’s defense that’s giving up over 430 yards a game. Victor Tucker didn’t have a reception last week, but I expect that will change with success in the running game, in turn opening up the passing game and getting the receivers more involved.
The 49ers defense will again be without multiple starters, as the injury bug has bitten Charlotte quite a bit this season. Tyriq Harris (back), Ben DeLuca (shoulder), and Prince Bemah (knee) are all out against the Owl’s. Will Healy is optimistic about senior LB Jeff Gemmell making his return from a sprained ankle suffered against UMass in Week 3.
Both of Charlotte’s victories in 2019 have come from offensive explosions, with 49 points against Gardner-Webb and 52 against UMass. I’m not sure they can hang that many points on a Glenn Spencer-led defense, but I do believe a big day is in store for Benny LeMay. Charlotte is only giving up 150 passing yards per contest, and a strong performance from the defense could push the 49ers past the Owl’s in the race for the C-USA East division crown.
The 49ers will be rocking a new green helmet featuring a Norm the Niner logo for their homecoming weekend.
FAU opens conference play looking to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss that prevented a return trip to a bowl game. If you’re looking for any trends that the Owls will revert back to their 2017 form when they won C-USA, that team began conference play against a Middle Tennessee team that humiliated them in the 2016 season finale and got revenge with a convincing win
If FAU is to continue that trend, success on offense is a must. Charlotte’s defense is allowing 38 points per game. Against Clemson they allowed 52 points. Understandable. However against App State they allowed 56 points. Not ideal. The 49ers have not had an easy transition under new co-DCs Marcus West and Brandon Cooper.
During FAU’s two-game winning streak the common theme has been a balance approach and that should continue. Charlotte hasn’t necessarily proved to be stout against the run or pass, due to the injury bug. Larry McCammon and James Charles will have opportunities to make a huge difference.
Under Will Healy their identity has sort of flipped to an offense-first team. Shutting down Benny LeMay should be priority No. 1. I like the matchup between FAU’s DBs against Charlotte’s WRs. The key to getting stops will be to force Chris Reynolds’ arm to win the game.
Hunter Bailey: Putting pressure on Chris Robison will be crucial for the 49ers, as he has only thrown one interception to this point in the year. I believe Alex Highsmith and Jacione Fugate have big days for Marcus West’s unit, as they must create turnovers and sacks to slow down the Owl’s explosive offense. Benny LeMay carried 24 times for 173 yards the last time these teams matched up, and I expect Will Healy will ride the running game to a close 38-35 Charlotte victory.
Cyrus Smith: Charlotte’s fan base has been re-energized under Healy so I’m expecting a good atmosphere. I think this has the makings of a classic shootout. FAU’s offense has turned a corner. I trust Chris Robison to play a clean game and make smart reads. Charlotte’s offense has looked explosive all season against even competition but I think they are prone to giving up the ball. This one plays out similar to the Ball State game. FAU gives up some yards but forces three turnovers. FAU’s points off those turnovers prove to be the difference. FAU 45 Charlotte 30.