Date/Time: Saturday, November 5, 12:00 PM ET
TV: CBS Sports Network (Play-By-Play: Carter Blackburn/Analyst: Robert Turbin)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sports Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Betting Line: WKU -16.5 O/U 72
All-Time Series Record: 49ers trail, 1-4 (Western Kentucky won most recent matchup 45-13 on October 30, 2021)
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&C’s apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
Charlotte was clicking on all cylinders last week in their upset win against Rice University. The Niners put up a season high 56 points in their rout against the Owls, with QB Chris Reynolds being named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.
Charlotte’s success started with the offensive line, as they propelled not only the Niners’ passing game, but also rushing attack. Charlotte finished with 239 yards on the ground, drastically beating their performance against FIU (60 yards).
Prior to last week’s matchup, Rice led the C-USA in time of possession. HC Pete Rossomando and starting C Ashton Gist made it a point to control the clock.
“We wanted to make sure we kept our defense off the field. We out possessed the time of possession leader in our conference and that’s what we were trying to do, the run game helps.” - Interim HC Pete Rossomando
Charlotte’s stellar performance on the ground opened up opportunities downfield for Chris Reynolds and the Niners receivers. WR Elijah Spencer matched a school record with three receiving touchdowns, while Grant DuBose and Victor Tucker also caught a touchdown of their own.
Charlotte’s offensive success directly correlated with the Niners stout defensive performance. The Owls were continuously forced to begin drives near their own twenty yard line.
After giving up 14 points to the Owls in the first quarter, Charlotte’s defense held Rice to 23 points for the game, making it a season-low for points allowed by the Niners. Charlotte Linebacker Prince Bemah had a team high 6 tackles, with one pass deflection. In Tuesday’s press conference, Prince relayed to the media how the defensive mantra for the game was to “align and execute”.
The Niners made sure to enjoy their win against Rice, but nonetheless, it was still just one game. Charlotte looks ahead to Saturday’s matchup with WKU with a healthy amount of respect for their opponent.
Here’s Interim HC Pete Rossomando on WKU’s offensive game plan:
“For the most part, [WKU] is not taking shots until they get to the fifty yard line. They’re going to take deep shots then, but everything else is RPO based, fast screens, run game…”
WKU hangs their hat on the defensive side of the ball. The Hilltoppers are currently first in the country in defensive touchdowns this season (4) and second in takeaways (21).
Charlotte will need to establish the run game early, in order to keep the Hilltoppers defense honest. Opposing teams in the past weeks have had success against Charlotte by running blitz heavy packages, if the Niners take what WKU’s defense gives them, they’ll be able to hang around in this matchup.
Western Kentucky Preview
WKU looks to bounce back after losing at home to North Texas (40-13). Despite the Hilltoppers lackluster performance on the ground, WKU was still able to receive big production from their receivers.
Through nine games, the Hilltoppers rank 11th in passing offense in the country. This could pose a major problem for the Niners, as notable Charlotte defensive back Wayne Jones is listed as out (lower leg injury) for Saturday’s matchup.
WKU quarterback Austin Reed has seen improvement from last season, completing 68.2% of his passes this year, compared to a career average of 59.8%. Tight End Joshua Simon has proven to be a major weapon/target for the Toppers offense. Simon will surely cause problems for the Niners defense in both run and pass block situations, especially when the Toppers implement their fast paced playing style.
Charlotte’s defensive conditioning will serve as a big factor in the outcome of this game. The Hilltoppers hurry up offense could give the Niners problems with substitutions and defensive stability.
WKU enters this game needing just one win to become bowl eligible for this year. This is nothing new for the Toppers, as a win this weekend would mark the fourth consecutive season they reached a bowl, including the 11th time in the past 12 years.
Saturday will likely be the final meeting by these two teams for the foreseeable future. The 49ers get ready to depart the C-USA for the American Athletic Conference next season. Western Kentucky holds the all-time series lead in this matchup, while also entering this game with plenty to play for. The Hilltoppers have a chance to clinch a bowl with a win, while the Niners look to end their season on a positive note following an abrupt change at the head coaching position. Pete Rossomando and the Niners will not back down and acquiesce to anyone, however, the Hilltoppers seem to be the better team.
I have WKU winning this game outright on the road, but they will not cover the spread (-16.5)
Final Score: Western Kentucky 35, Charlotte 27