The Charlette 49ers are set to travel to Miami for a Friday night Conference USA matchup with the FIU Panthers. Charlotte wrapped up non-conference play with a 24-14 loss to Illinois last week and is 3-2 overall, including a 1-0 mark in C-USA play. The 49ers picked up a 42-39 victory over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 24. FIU has a 1-4 record and is 0-1 in the league following a 58-21 loss to rival Florida Atlantic in its most recent outing.
Charlotte at FIU
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Charlotte -3.5
When Charlotte Has the Ball
Quarterback Chris Reynolds is one of the best and most experienced signal-callers in Conference USA. Reynolds has started 29 games for the 49ers, more than any other quarterback has for his team in the league. The senior has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 1,115 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions while averaging 8.3 yards per attempt this season. Reynolds is on pace to set career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, and he also is a productive runner, having gained 178 yards with a team-high three touchdowns on the ground this year.
Victor Tucker led the 49ers in both receptions and receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, but Reynolds has a new weapon to work with in Grant DuBose, a transfer from Division II Miles College. DuBose has 24 catches for 393 yards and four touchdowns in his first season at Charlotte, each of which currently leads the team. He also has a pair of 100-yard, two-touchdown performances during important wins over Duke and Middle Tennessee. Tucker has been just as good with 23 receptions, 340 yards, and a score to date. Fellow wideout Elijah Spencer (8 rec., 132 yds., 3 TDs), tight end Taylor Thompson (12, 104), and running back Shadrick Byrd (7, 93, 2) give the 49ers a diverse passing attack.
Byrd, an Iowa transfer, has been the top ball carrier for the 49ers this season and has turned his 57 rushing attempts into 215 yards and a touchdown. But Calvin Camp has done more with fewer opportunities so far and leads the team with 290 yards on 49 carries, including two scores. ChaVon McEachern (115 yards, TD) adds depth in the backfield.
When FIU Has the Ball
Max Bortenschlager struggled to hold down the starting quarterback role for the Panthers last season and finished with 284 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in five games. Bortenschlager, a Maryland transfer, completed 45.8 percent of his passes and averaged 5.9 yards per attempt in his first year at FIU but has performed far better in his second go-round. The senior has completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 1,368 yards and 10 touchdowns with four interceptions. Bortenschlager ranks second in C-USA and No. 11 nationally with an average of 9.5 yards per attempt.
Tyrese Chambers and Bryce Singleton have been big-play weapons, having averaged 27.7 and 19.4 yards per catch, respectively. Chambers, who leads the Panthers with 471 yards and four touchdowns, is No. 1 in the nation in yards per reception — 3.2 yards more than the closest qualifier. Singleton has caught 21 passes for 408 yards and a touchdown, while tight end Rivaldo Fairweather and receiver Randall St. Felix have eight catches and a touchdown apiece, for 123 and 87 yards, respectively. Running back D’Vonte Price has chipped in with six receptions for 65 yards, but he is much more productive as a traditional ball carrier. He has gained 411 yards and scored six touchdowns on 76 carries while averaging 5.4 yards per attempt.
Both defenses have struggled this season. Charlotte ranks 119th nationally with 7.17 yards per play allowed, adjusted for non-garbage time against FBS opponents by Brian Fremeau, as well as 102nd in adjusted points per drive (2.66) under those circumstances. FIU ranks 116th and 113th with 7.08 yards per play, and 2.84 points per drive respectively, according to Fremeau. The Panthers have also surrendered 9.5 yards per pass attempt against FBS opponents, which ranks No. 120 overall.
FIU is also in the news this week due to conflicting reports about the future of head coach Butch Davis. Florida International University has posted the job on its official website to potential applicants, and sources told Football Scoop that Davis intends to retire at the end of the season. However, Brett McMurphy of the Action Network reported Davis has not informed officials he intends to step down. It also is standard practice for FIU to accept online applications for jobs in all sports regardless of whether the position is open.
Given FIU's lack of success in recent years, the story is a potential distraction for a program in desperate need of a win. Regardless, because of Charlotte’s strength in the passing game, and the Panthers’ struggles to defend it, Will Healy’s 49ers squad should have the edge on the road.
Prediction: Charlotte 30, FIU 27
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