CHARLOTTE 49ERS (2-2, 2-1 C-USA) vs DUKE BLUE DEVILS (1-5, 1-5 ACC)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 31st, 7:00 PM ET
Location: Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Fan Capacity: No fans or family
Betting Line: Duke -9.5 (O/U 56)
All-Time Series Record: First meeting between the two programs
The 49ers are coming off of consecutive double-digit conference victories and have now set their sights on a Halloween matchup with the team with the scariest, or ugliest, record in the ACC.
Charlotte got off to a sluggish start in last week’s game against UTEP, but with an opportunistic defense creating three takeaways, the offense found their footing and pulled away in the second half.
Chris Reynolds hasn’t lit up the box score nearly as much as he did late in 2019, but the 5-11 signal-caller has protected the ball and continued to extend plays with ease. After rushing for 757 yards in 2019, the dual-threat quarterback has only rushed for 39 yards through four games this season. It may not come this week against an athletic front-four, but you can expect Reynolds to explode on the ground before this season comes to a close.
Getting Jaelin Fisher back at center will be big for the offensive line as the Outland Trophy candidate returns after missing the UTEP game with injury. This will shift Penn State transfer Hunter Kelly back to LG. While this lineup has only seen action together in one game, they paved the way for season highs in touchdowns (4), and rushing yards (304) in a victory over North Texas.
The key to beating Duke stems from rushing the passer. Charlotte has only recorded three sacks so far this season and will need more from Preseason First Team All C-USA defensive end Markees Watts moving forward. When under pressure, Duke QB Chase Brice is completing just 39% of his passes for 312 yards, one touchdown, and six interceptions.
Charlotte’s defense has forced multiple takeaways in two of their four games thus far and will need to push that total to three if they plan to leave Wallace Wade with their first win over an ACC school.
The Blue Devils have been atrocious through six games, with their lone victory coming in a four turnover performance against a one-win Syracuse team. Duke has turned the ball over 22 times this season, finding themselves with a -10 turnover margin.
After beating Syracuse to break their four-game losing skid, the Blue Devils took a 20-14 lead over NC State to halftime before allowing 17 unanswered points, resulting in their fifth loss of 2020. David Cutcliffe’s unit has been held scoreless in the fourth quarter in four of their six contests this season.
Clemson transfer Chase Brice has been a turnover machine, fumbling three times and throwing 11 interceptions. The junior signal-caller has completed 55% of his passes for 1,461 yards and 6 touchdowns but has been under pressure early and often as the Blue Devils’ offensive line has given up 23 sacks in six games.
Getting the rushing attack going against a team that is giving up 198 yards on the ground per game is paramount for Duke. In the Blue Devils’ lone win, Deon Jackson and Mataeo Durant both rushed for 150+ yards and the ground game accounted for 363 total yards.
With two weeks to prepare for the 49ers, expect the Blue Devils to load the box and force Chris Reynolds to beat them through the air. Duke’s next opponent just so happens to be in-state rival No. 15 North Carolina, so being able to lock in on the task at hand will help the Blue Devils from dropping their only non-conference game of the season.
I said it before the season began and I am even more confident in it now. Charlotte is going to go in as underdogs and bring Club Lit to Durham. Duke can’t hold onto the ball and has only won the time of possession battle once this year. I think this one is close heading to the fourth, but Chris Reynolds and the 49ers find a way to bring a victory back to the Queen City. I’m going Charlotte 28, Duke 24.