South Carolina State Bulldogs (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) vs Charlotte 49ers (American Athletic Conference)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 2, 6:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN+ (Play-By-Play: James Westling/Analyst: Jay Sonnhalter)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sports Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/ Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
All-Time Series Record: First Meeting
Week 1 will mark 10 years of Football for the Charlotte 49ers. The Niners’ offseason could only be described as a whirlwind of moving parts. From moving conferences (C-USA to AAC), hiring New Head Coach Biff Poggi, or helping approximately 70 new players (over 40 from four-year institutions) adjust to the change of location, the Niners have had their hands full all offseason.
Biff Poggi’s first move was remodeling his coaching staff and roster to mirror the style of play of Michigan, where he served as an Associate Head Coach under Jim Harbaugh for two CFP SemiFinals appearances.
Biff Poggi on the team’s identity:
“Stop the run on defense and run the football on offense. We’re going to play in a league where most people are going to throw it around…we’re going to look a lot like Michigan and Illinois, rather than that team from Ohio”.
The Niners will start the 2023 season with a revamped offense, following the departure of five-year starting QB Chris Reynolds, and wide receivers Grant DuBose, Victor Tucker, and Elijah Spencer.
New Offensive Coordinator Mike Miller will be calling plays for the Niners offense. Mike Miller’s previous jobs include coaching quarterbacks at Clemson, Alabama and Maryland. In addition to hiring Mike Miller as Offensive Coordinator, Coach Poggi recruited 3-star freshman running back Durell Robinson, former Jackson State QB Jalon Jones, and 4 new starters to the offensive line.
Even with the new additions on offense, Charlotte’s defense has been the highlight of fall camp. The Niners hired former Michigan Defensive Assistant and Baltimore Ravens Coach Ryan Osborn as Defensive Coordinator, in hopes of bolstering their defensive line…specifically edge rushers. Charlotte added talented players such as former 5-star DE Eyabi Okie-Anoma, Ole Miss transfer Demon Clowney, and other game-breakers to an already talented group on defense. Charlotte will depend on 2022 leading tackler Prince Bemah to serve as the glue between the front line and secondary.
One thing has been clear since the start of camp, the Niners are jumping at the chance to prove the AAC projections wrong. Their journey starts Saturday against South Carolina State. Defensive End Eyabi Okie-Anoma has zero jitters or butterflies ahead of Saturday’s opener, “I’m never worried about the first hit, I’m the initiator. You always have to be the hammer or you’re going to be the nail…and I’m never the nail”.
Despite Eyabi Okie-Anoma being in a walking boot during Tuesday’s presser, Coach Poggi informed the media Charlotte will be full speed on Saturday, with zero injuries on the roster.
South Carolina State Preview
South Carolina State opened the season with a 37-7 loss against Jackson State University. The Bulldogs struggled mightily through the air, with starting quarterback Corey Fields Jr. finishing the game with 64 passing yards. Wide receiver Keshawn Toney was the only Bulldog to eclipse 10 receiving yards (41 yards).
S.C. State’s rushing attack fared better against the Tigers defense. The Bulldogs deployed six different rushers, netting 137 yards on the ground. One yard less than Jackson State.
There was a noticeable size and physicality difference between the two teams, as Jackson State repeatedly overpowered the Bulldogs at the line of scrimmage. S.C. State’s defense failed to make JSU quarterback Jason Brown uncomfortable, leading him to throw 26/30 with 356 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Despite the loss, South Carolina State was able to use Week 0 as a “feel-out” game, working out kinks in their offense and defense. S.C. State will make it a point to start the game strong, using Charlotte’s lack of cohesion to catch the Niners off-guard, in hopes of turning their early mistakes into points. The Niners have repeatedly stated they will play one style of football. Knocking them out of a rhythm will be a key factor in this matchup.
Bulldogs Head Coach Oliver Pough has seen it all during his 21 years at S.C. State. Coach Pough’s experience will make it easier to make adjustments as the Bulldogs look to leave Jerry Richardson Stadium with a .500 record.
The Biff Poggi Era is underway in Charlotte, and the Niners will treat this as a must-win game. Charlotte has the necessary size on both sides of the ball to consistently win at the line of scrimmage, along with a rejuvenated crowd and fanbase to serve as their 12th man.
Although the Niners are heavily favored to win this game, they must not overlook their opponent and risk repeating the start of last season (Loss to William & Mary 41-24).
S.C. State will likely start the game off strong, already having a game under their belt. If the Bulldogs can establish any sort of run game early, the game will remain close until halftime.
In the second half, Charlotte’s size and talent will win out.
Final Score: Charlotte 31, S.C. State 17