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FIU Panthers vs Charlotte 49ers: Preview & Prediction

Charlotte looks to beat FIU for the first time in program history, while the Panthers look to avoid an 0-3 start for the first time since 2016.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Charlotte at FIU Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

FIU PANTHERS (0-2, 0-1 C-USA) vs. CHARLOTTE 49ERS (1-2, 1-1 C-USA)

Date/Time: Saturday, October 17th, 8:00 PM ET

TV: ESPNU (Play-By-Play: Mike Couzens/Analyst: Rene Ingoglia)

Radio: Caracol 1260 WSUA Miami (Play-By-Play: AJ Ricketts)/WZGV 730 The Game Charlotte 49ers IMG Sports Network (Play-By-Play:Matt Swierad/ Analyst: Al Wallace/Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)

Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Fan Capacity: 1,072 (7%)

Betting Line: Charlotte -7.5 (O/U 60)

All-Time Series Record: FIU 5-0

Previous Matchup: FIU defeated Charlotte 48-23 in 2019


FIU Preview

After suffering a two-point loss at Liberty to open the season, FIU dropped their home-opener to previously winless Middle Tennessee State by three last Saturday. The biggest reason for the Panthers defeat - struggles at the quarterback position. Head coach Butch Davis revealed in his postgame press conference that the team dealt with 17 false-positive COVID tests during the week, severely limiting the practice reps that two of his QBs were able to get during the week.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Stone Norton leads all FIU QBs in passing yards with 141.

In the loss to MTSU, Redshirt junior Kaylan Wiggins played the majority of the game, but struggled in going 4-of-14 for 30 yards and an interception. Outside of the quarterback position, the FIU offensive line was able to spring both D’Vonte Price and Shaun Peterson Jr. for over 100 yards rushing.

Shaun Peterson Jr. had his first career 100-yard rushing day in the loss to MTSU.
Mark Brown/Getty Images

“I’ve been pleased with the progression of both running backs in giving us that one-two punch that we need in the backfield,” said Butch Davis following the MTSU game.

Defensively, FIU put together their second consecutive strong performance against the run, holding MTSU to 136 rushing yards on 38 carries. The Panthers’ secondary forced two Asher O’Hara interceptions. However, they allowed a late touchdown pass from O’Hara to receiver Jarrin Pierce in the corner of the endzone, giving MTSU the game-winning score.

Heading into the Charlotte game, the Panthers hope to get pass-rush specialist Alexy Jean-Baptiste back from an injury suffered against Liberty, along with defensive tackle Andrew Tarver, who’s missed the first two contests.

On special teams, RB/KR Lexington Joseph leads FBS football in kick return yards with 368 and punter Tommy Heatherly has had an excellent start to the season. However, after losing Jose Borregales to Miami in the offseason, true freshman Chase Gabriel hasn’t attempted a field goal this season.

Charlotte Preview

After dropping two winnable games early in the season, the 49ers found a way to execute through all four quarters and brought Club Lit back from North Texas with a dominating win.

The offense found its life as Aaron McAllister brought home C-USA player of the week honors with 140 yards on the ground, 74 through the air, and two touchdowns in the victory. The 49ers executed in all three phases for the first time this season and now focus their efforts on beating a team that they have lost to five consecutive times.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Charlotte at FIU
McAllister is yet to start this season, but still owns the longest kick return (97 yards), the longest rush (66 yards), and the longest reception (71 yards) for the 49ers through three games.
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Charlotte’s last game against FIU was an absolute route as the Panthers put on a clinic on the ground. Butch Davis’ unit rushed for 350 yards and played turnover-free football while holding Chris Reynolds to just 114 yards on six completions. Benny LeMay ran wild -just as he did in every matchup with FIU - but with LeMay no longer in green and gold, the combo of McAllister and Tre Harbison have their work cut out against a unit that is giving up 465 total yards per game.

This is the first game in the Queen City since the senior day victory of Marshall on November 23rd, 2019. 1,072 students, family members, and university guests will be in attendance on Saturday night for the nationally televised matchup with Butch Davis’ Panthers.

After a monstrous road win last Saturday, you would expect this team to bring a different energy to practice with so many new faces experiencing victory with the 49ers, but coach Healy touched on what has been a sluggish start to the week.

“Today we were a little sloppy. I thought we had a little bit of a hangover today. I expect them to respond tomorrow, and I thought that the second half of practice was a little better. Overall, the morale is totally different. Everybody feels better after a win, and it’s definitely a different feeling in the office.”

The team’s leading receiver, Victor Tucker, is questionable for the matchup with an ankle injury. Tucker has 13 catches for 177 yards through three games but has yet to find the end zone in 2020. If he is available, you can bet that will change.


Prediction

Eric Henry: FIU has played well in both games this year - the issue is that they haven’t played a complete game. Costly penalties hurt the Panthers in week one, while the quarterback play torpedoed any chance of FIU hanging on for a victory last week. For Davis’ team to avoid an 0-3 start, the rushing game will lead the way - but the quarterbacks have to find ways to get the ball in the hands of playmakers JJ Holloman and Bryce Singleton. If they can’t, Charlotte isn’t necessarily a better team - but they’re more complete. Charlotte 27, FIU 21

Hunter Bailey: The 49ers showed signs of an identity on the ground against North Texas and will look to capitalize on the Panthers’ biggest weakness - run defense. Chris Reynolds is going to complete more than six passes in this matchup and the defense is going to force turnovers early and often. I’m going with Charlotte 38, FIU 27.