Memphis Tigers (7-2; AAC: 4-1) vs Charlotte 49ers (3-6; AAC: 2-3)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 11, 2:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN+ (Play-By-Play: Richard Cross/Analyst: Taylor McHargue/Sideline: Morgan Uber)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sport Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Spread: MEM -8.5, Over/Under 51.5
Series Record: First Meeting
Setting The Stage
Charlotte enters this game coming off a big week in Tulsa. For the first time in two years, Charlotte won a game when trailing at the half and entering the fourth quarter. The Niners will be getting key defenders back this week after team-issued suspensions kept them on the sidelines in Week 10. Charlotte’s bowl game hopes are still alive, but Memphis’ dynamic offense will be a tough matchup for the Niners.
Charlotte overcame a 17-0 deficit, storming back in the second half to win in overtime. The Niners’ hopes of playing in a bowl game remain alive after last week’s win, making each game a must-win for the rest of the season. Trexler Ivey started at quarterback for Charlotte after Jalon Jones continued to nurse injuries from the Week 9 matchup vs. Florida Atlantic. Trexler Ivey showed the potential to lead an offense, having his best game of the season, capped off by two go-ahead drives to seal the game.
Head coach Biff Poggi spoke on Trexler Ivey’s performance, “Trexler played a great game. He wasn’t 100% healthy, but he practiced every day of the week. He’s a tough kid, who wanted to play and played incredibly well.”
Charlotte was able to get the ball in their playmaker’s hands in the second half, creating space for splash plays down the field. Running back Henry Rutledge had four carries for 92 yards and wide receiver Jairus Mack had a season-high 124 yards on seven receptions against the Golden Hurricane. Offensive Coordinator Mike Miller feels as if the offense is finally turning a corner, saying “We were down 17-0 and I pulled the offense together and said someone has to step up and make plays. We were explosive and had to raise our standard. We came out sleepwalking on Saturday, but chin down, eyes up, keep swinging. It takes time, that word is not very popular in college football and we’re trying to expedite that process… We’re trusting our process, we’re going to fall in love with it, and it loved us back on Saturday.”
The Niners scored a season-high 33 points last week, but Memphis’ high-powered offense has scored 45+ points in three straight weeks. AAC Defensive Player of the Week Nikhai Hill-Green is ready for the matchup and doesn’t want to focus on the oddsmakers. Hill-Green finished with 11 total tackles last week, having arguably his best performance of the season. Charlotte’s Defensive Coordinator Ryan Osborn shared the same sentiment, saying “They have really good football coaches and follow the playbook really well. We have to get these guys off track. They score points, stay ahead of the sticks, and stay efficient. Memphis is a team we aspire to be… and it’s going to be a huge test, but we’re up for the challenge.”
Time of possession could very well be the best defense against Memphis’ offense. Charlotte ranks 8th in the nation in time of possession at 32 minutes per game. Eyabi Okie-Anoma, Stone Handy, and Al-Ma’hi Ali will return for Saturday’s matchup against Memphis after serving suspensions for the Tulsa game. Coach Poggi declined to elaborate on the reason for their suspensions. Charlotte has fared much better on the road than at home, as they look to earn their first conference home win of the season.
Memphis enters this game with a 7-2 record after beating South Florida 59-50 at home in the highest-scoring game of the year. The Tigers have scored 45+ points in their last three games, looking to extend that streak to four in Charlotte. Starting quarterback Seth Henigan had a stellar outing, going 23 for 40 on pass attempts for 349 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. However, he exited the game due to injury and was replaced by backup Tevin Carter. Regardless of quarterback, it’s clear Memphis takes pride in their ability to throw the ball downfield. Eight receivers caught passes last week, totaling 441 yards through the air. The Tigers have multiple dynamic receivers, giving Charlotte an uphill battle in the secondary. Wide receivers Roc Taylor and DeMeer Blankumsee both finished with 140+ yards receiving on 6 receptions or less. Memphis will look to give the ball to their playmakers in space, in hopes of connecting on chunk plays downfield.
The Tigers are regularly involved in offensive “shootouts,” due to their defense giving up an average of 33 points per game. Memphis ranks 11th in the AAC in rushing defense, giving up 168.7 yards per game and 12 touchdowns on the season. Charlotte will need to establish a rushing attack early in order to keep the Memphis offense at bay.
To Memphis’ credit, the Tigers are exceptional on 4th down defense. They rank 1st in the AAC in opponent 4th down conversions (30%). Charlotte has been known to be aggressive on 4th downs, so if Memphis can flip the field on short down and distances, the Tigers will be in a prime position to win this game on the road.
Charlotte’s season has been a rollercoaster, to say the least. The Niners have yet to win two consecutive games and struggle against high-powered offenses. Charlotte must take care of the ball and not settle for field goals. Memphis will be incredibly tough to slow down, and the Niners offense doesn’t seem prepared to go toe-to-toe with the Tigers’ weapons. Charlotte has yet to win a conference game at home this year, making this matchup not so favorable for the Niners.
Score prediction: Memphis 40, Charlotte 14