CHARLOTTE 49ERS (0-1, 0-0 C-USA) vs FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS (0-0, 0-0 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 3rd, 4:00 PM ET
Location: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, FLA
Fan Capacity: 20% capacity. Roughly 6,000 tickets including 2,500 reserved for students.
Betting Line: Florida Atlantic -6 (O/U 60)
All-Time Series Record: FAU 3-2
Previous Matchup: The Owls exploded in the second half for a 45-27 victory over the 49ers on Charlotte’s homecoming.
The 49ers are preparing for their first game in three weeks following two cancellations due to contact tracing and quarantining. While it has been tough getting the news that a week of practice and preparation wasn’t rewarded with a game - 51 hours and 22 hours before kickoff at that - there’s still a bright side.
- Extra time to get healthy - Chris Reynolds was going to push it to the limit last Saturday and play through injury, but now has an extra seven days to recover
- More guys available following quarantine
- Will Healy joked that this is the first time in his coaching career he has only had one loss heading to October
- Just being in Boca Raton
Following a weekend full of fun for the 49ers including a wiffle ball tournament and a coaches 7-on-7, locking in on the skill and speed that FAU brings to the table will be key to that first victory of 2020. The Owls ran over Charlotte in a game the 49ers were favored in a year ago, and did just that by dominating the line of scrimmage and running up 557 yards of total offense.
“Speaking on the game from last year, they came out with speed that we weren’t ready for,” Carol City, Florida native Victor Tucker said during Tuesday’s press conference. “It seemed like we receiving the blow instead of going out and delivering it.”
Eight Florida natives, four of which are key players for the 49ers will have a chance to play the game they love in front of their families this weekend: Tucker, Ben DeLuca, Tyler Murray, and Aaron McAllister.
You never add trick plays the week of the game, but I can assure you that Will Healy has some tricks up his sleeve in 2020. Charlotte brought out one of my favorite plays of last season against FAU and Chris Reynolds caught Cameron Dollar’s pass and nearly scored on the 49ers’ version of the “Philly Special.”
One of my favorite plays from the 2019 season came against FAU on homecoming. Charlotte pulled out their version of the "Philly Special" and Reynolds showed off the agility. We'll see what tricks Healy has up his sleeve in 2020.#GoldStandard pic.twitter.com/VdUUqu3bUx— Hunter Bailey (@Hunter_Bailey45) October 1, 2020
This is essentially a season-opener for both teams. Charlotte hasn’t played since September 12th and FAU hasn’t graced the field since 2019 due to various cancellations. Preparing for a team that has no film, a new coaching staff, and a new QB will be a tall-task for the 49ers, but they are undefeated in Boca in the program’s short history.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC OUTLOOK
The Owls racked up 11 wins in 2019 including a C-USA championship and a Boca Raton Bowl victory over SMU - both in dominating fashion. The Lane train has since left the station, and while Glenn Spencer had the players’ vote to take the reigns, Willie Taggart got the job and replaced everyone but the special team’s coordinator.
Taggart boasts a 56-62 overall coaching record but has found himself in more of a reload instead of rebuild situation for the first time in his career. Losing Chris Robison due to off the field issues hurts, but former Hoosier Nick Tronti was utilized in a plethora of run packages in 2019 and has all the tools to step into the full-time role in 2020.
The skill positions are really the highlight of this unit headlined by BJ Emmons and Malcolm Davidson and five pass-catchers who were at Power 5 schools last year: Michael Irvin II (Miami), TJ Chase (Clemson), Aaron Young (Duke), BJ Alexander (Kentucky), and D’Marcus Adams (Florida State).
The depth at the running back position is eye-popping and with Tronti’s dual-threat ability, this ground attack will be deadly against a Charlotte defense that gave up 304 yards on the ground against Appalachian State in their season opener.
The defensive side of the ball is the biggest concern for the FAU faithful. C-USA’s best recruiting class is fitting right in in Boca, but the depth will be extremely questionable.
Out of 15 players who saw the most defensive reps for the Owls in 2019, 13 of them are gone. This unit is going to be extremely young and inexperienced. Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will have his work cut out for him and if the run game isn’t as explosive as I believe it will be, this team may struggle early.
The Owls are chomping at the bit to hit someone that isn’t on their team, and this will be a good one in the trenches. FAU forced the most turnovers in the nation in 2019 with 2.5 takeaways per game, and if they can continue that trend they have the tools to notch their eighth consecutive win dating back to October of 2019.
A Willie Taggart-led team hasn’t won a season opener since 2017 and I think that trend continues. The Owls’ offense is high powered and bogging down Emmons and Davidson will be the only way Charlotte can leave Boca with a victory. I think Tre Harbison has a monster day and Chris Reynolds bounces back in a close one. Charlotte 38, Florida Atlantic 31.