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Charlotte 49ers vs. Florida Atlantic Owls: Preview & Prediction

The Owls and 49ers meet in primetime on Thursday night to clear the smoke in a crowded East division title race

Charlotte v Florida Atlantic Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Date/Time: Thursday, October 21st (7:30 PM EST)

Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Vegas Odds: Florida Atlantic -6 via BetMGM

TV: CBS Sports Network (Jason Horowitz, Ross Tucker)

Radio: Fox Sports 640AM South Florida (Ken LaVicka, Kris Bartels, Mike Mreczko) // WZGV 730 The Game ESPN Charlotte (Matt Swierad, Al Wallace, Bobby Rosinski)


FLORIDA ATLANTIC PREVIEW

Coming off of a bye week, Willie Taggart’s Owls will look to rebound after putting on a lackluster performance in Birmingham that resulted in a 31-14 loss to UAB. Plagued by turnovers on each of their first two plays from scrimmage including a 100-yard pick six to put them down two possessions at the end of the first half, the Owls just never got out of their own way, dropping their first meeting with the Blazers since the 2019 conference championship game.

“You go back to the first couple of plays of the game, and you start there. We came out and threw a pick on the first play, and we come back to the second play and we fumble the ball,” head coach Willie Taggart noted of his team’s last performance. “You talk about going on the road and winning, you can’t go on the road and win games like that. And even though we made those two mistakes early, we were still there … you think about us driving down and had a chance to go up before the half and then get the ball back and get the momentum on our side and it totally flipped. It’s hard to win on the road when you play that sloppy.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 FIU at FAU Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Having lost five straight road contests dating back to November 2020, Florida Atlantic used its week off to double down on scheme preparations in hopes of getting back to their bread and butter, looking to break away from their road game woes and get back above .500 in conference play.

“I thought yesterday we were much fresher. More energy into the game week. We tried to show them a lot of different things last week in preparation. Now we’re fine-tuning all of it. We came out of four weeks of camp, six weeks of playing, your legs get a little tired. I think the bye and giving them a couple of days came at a good time,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

The ability to attack with multiple backs on the ground will be an area of emphasis as the Owls have netted 536 yards rushing with Johnny Ford and Malcolm Davidson alone, not including three other tailbacks who’ve each accounted for over 100 yards a piece. Charlotte’s defense has surrendered an average of 221.7 rushing yards per contest, sitting them all the way down ranked 124th nationally.


CHARLOTTE PREVIEW

The 45-33 final score makes it seem to be more of a shootout than it was, but the 49ers were able to stave off late touchdown bombs and big plays to claim their first ever victory over FIU two weeks ago, moving to 4-2 with a 3-0 record playing in front of a CBS Sports Network live national audience.

Chris Reynolds orchestrated yet another peak level performance, going 22-for-28 through the air with 199 yards and four touchdowns. Leading 31-13 heading into the final frame, Charlotte’s secondary buckled, surrendering 271 yards and three touchdowns through the air on just their last four possessions on defense alone.

“I thought FIU showed tremendous fight and provided lots of issues for us,” said coach Will Healy. “There’s a million different things to correct for this football team to be able to go where we want to go, we did not finish how I would like to finish, got a little sloppy there at the end... I just want to finish better than that, we’re better than that. Offense, defense, and special teams.”

NCAA Football: Charlotte at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Having big play ability will be necessary in their own right, matching receivers Victor Tucker and Grant DuBose up against a FAU secondary holding opponents to just 6.5 passing yards per attempt, good for 27th in the country statistically. Shadrick Byrd and Calvin Camp form a reliable one-two punch for OC Mark Carney’s multiple scheme base, joining UAB and Old Dominion as the only three programs with two rushers inside the league’s top 15 in rushing yards.

“This will be a really good challenge for our football team, I’m excited about being back at home. Our student section has been phenomenal and I expect it to be the same way Thursday night with a nationally televised audience. It’s another great opportunity for our program to continue to show how far we’ve come. This football team is going to be really good by Week 12, that’s the goal. We’ve got a long way to go, obviously we showed that against FIU, but they’re working to get there.”


PREDICTION

It’s a little too tough to try and pinpoint a proper course of action in determining a favorite in this one, largely in part because both teams carry a lot of the same traits. Experienced quarterbacks paired with multi-faceted skill options, sketchy defenses that need some tweaking, but these programs have both looked really good when they want to, and really bad when they want to as well. Inevitably it comes down to Charlotte keeping chunk plays to a minimum and finding their groove offensively, with Florida Atlantic hoping to get out of whatever funk that seems to travel with them on the road and pounding the rock. Nationally televised audience, key momentum swing for the program that can claim the divisional win, it’s essentially a pick ‘em and we couldn’t ask for anything better as newly minted American Athletic Conference junkies. I’ve toyed too much with the back and forth score projections, so just give me Charlotte and we’ll call it a day.

FINAL PREDICTION: Charlotte 31, Florida Atlantic 27