Start Time: 7:30 PM EST, Saturday, November 21
Location: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Kentucky
TV: SEC Network
Radio: Charlotte: here. Kentucky: here.
Records: Charlotte: 2-8. Kentucky: 4-6. This is the first meeting between these two programs.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Charlotte +24.5. Over/Under 56.
Charlotte Outlook: The 49ers have not been completely overmatched all season long, a development few saw coming.
Much of the success for Charlotte on offense is from the running game. Leading rusher Kalif Phillips is listed as questonable, but will not be at 100% even if he does play. His ability to gain yards at a 5.1 yards per carry clip has kept the 49ers afloat this season.
If he cannot go, the job will go to Andrew Buie and Braden Smith. The sophomore Smith has shown the ability to make explosive runs in limited duty this fall. The only quarterback on Charlotte's roster that is somewhat effective in the passing game is Matt Johnson, but the 49ers tend to use multiple quarterabacks in every game.
To give you a sense of just how bad the Charlotte passing game is this fall, take a look at the leading passer on the season. Junior Lee McNeill holds that dubious distinction, but has one touchdown pass and 10 interceptions on the season. The only quarterback with a touchdown to interception rate of 1:1 or better is freshman Brooks Barden.
When passing the ball, Austin Duke, Trent Bostick, and T.L. Ford II are the best options. The trio have 93 catches for 1,077 yards and seven touchdowns. That is good for 58.4% of all receiving yards on the season. Overall, the 49ers average 184.4 yards per game in the air.
Despite the inflated numbers, the 49ers have not been a complete disaster on defense this fall. Most surprising is the fact that teams only rush for 3.9 yards per carry versus Charlotte. That is due in part to a stuff rate that ranks in the top 20 nationally, meaning the rush defense knows how to get in the backfield. Passing numbers tend to be a little harder on the eyes as Charlotte has a nice defensive success rate, but gives up way too many explosive plays. That is all part of the growing pains of a first year FBS program.
Players to watch on the Charlotte defense include: Larry Ogunjobi, Nick Cook, and Dequan Lucas.
Kentucky Outlook: The Wildcats welcome a respite from the demanding SEC slate they have faced this fall.
The Wildcats offense has been pretty much MIA this fall in only scoring over 30 points on two occasions. The last four weeks have been particularly dreadful with scoring totals of 16, 21, 3, and 17 in four straight losses. The running game has been solid with Stanley Williams, nicknamed Boom, rushing for 6.9 yards per carry. Jojo Kemp and Mikel Horton give him some rest, but do not have the same explosiveness of Williams.
Even with a run game that averages 4.3 yards per carry, the Wildcats somehow do not break the 150 yards per game barrier.
Passing the ball for Kentucky has been an adventure to say the least. Former top recruit Patrick Towles has been unable to live up to the hype. His 55.9% completion rate is evident of the basic fact that accuracy is everything in the passing game. Talented targets Dorian Baker, Garrett Johnson, and Jeff Badet have been unable to make a significant impact on the season with all three having catch rates under 62%.
Freshman Drew Barker is the other option behind center, but followed up a touchdown pass with an ugly pick six in a loss to Vanderbilt.
Despite a significant lack of offense, the Wildcats defense has been much better than the numbers indicate. They rank in the top 50 in defensive IsoPPP and points allowed per trip inside the 40 yard line. The problem is the fact that with a bad offense, they end up on the field way too often and fall apart due to fatigue. Expect Charlotte to challenge them with the running game.
Players to watch on the Kentucky defense include: Josh Forrest, Cory Johnson, and Khalid Henderson.
Prediction: I cannot see any way that this game does not get ugly. Kentucky is still within reach of a bowl berth and must win this game to keep their hopes alive. Charlotte is in shock after blowing a late lead in a loss to UTSA. Kentucky 42, Charlotte 10.