Charlotte has only played two games this season, with its Sept. 19 matchup at North Carolina and subsequent Sept. 26 game vs. Georgia State both canceled/postponed due to COVID-19. Both of their two road trips have ended in losses, with a 35-20 season-opening loss at Appalachian State and 21-17 loss at Florida Atlantic sandwiching the two games wiped from the slate.
North Texas hasn't been immune from COVID-related interruptions either, with its Sept. 26 in-state showdown with Houston scratched from the schedule. That game would have been the team's only road game in the first five weeks of the season, so head coach Seth Littrell will look to rebound from his team's back-to-back losses to SMU and Southern Miss as his team finishes off a stretch of four straight home games to begin the season.
The 49ers and Mean Green don't have much in the way of history, though the brief history that exists — in the form of one single meeting — began just last year. Charlotte hosted North Texas and squeaked out a one-point win, hanging on to a 39-38 win that snapped a four-game losing skid and began a run of five straight wins to close the 49ers' regular season.
Charlotte at North Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: North Texas -3
When Charlotte Has the Ball
Quarterback Chris Reynolds was Conference USA's most efficient passer a season ago, but he started the 2020 campaign with just 140 passing yards and a pair of interceptions against Appalachian State in the season-opener. He rebounded with a 24-of-32 effort in the loss at FAU in which he passed for 312 yards and a touchdown, unable to reignite the 49ers' offense to the win after building a 10-0 halftime lead.
Running back Tre Harbison III came to Charlotte as a grad transfer from Northern Illinois after a pair of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the Huskies. His 2020 season has started on a much slower pace, as he's posted 87 and 49 yards rushing against Appalachian State and FAU, respectively, albeit with a touchdown in each game. On the receiving side, 2020 Biletnikoff Watch List selection Victor Tucker (nine receptions, 118 yards) was Charlotte's leading receiver against FAU, while Cameron Dollar (five receptions, 96 yards) hauled in Reynolds' only touchdown in the first quarter.
Offensively, North Texas has hardly struggled to find the end zone; however, neither have the Mean Green's opponents. Clint Bowen's unit has allowed 45.7 points per game thus far — third-worst int he FBS — with now-No. 18 SMU posting 65 points in a 30-point win in Denton. The Mean Green have also allowed the second-most yards per game (572.0) of any FBS team this season and have notched just one takeaway, an interception by Makyle Sanders last Saturday in the loss to Southern Miss.
When North Texas Has the Ball
Quarterback Austin Aune made his first career start against Southern Miss after entering as the backup against both Houston Baptist and SMU, and the redshirt sophomore completed 28 of his 47 passes for 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That marks Aune's second straight game with multiple touchdown passes, as he also threw for touchdowns against SMU in relief of Jason Bean.
With 238.7 yards rushing per game thus far, the Mean Green boast the nation's 10th-best rushing offense in 2020. Oscar Adaway III and DeAndre Torrey both sit in the top 40 nationally in rushing yards; Adaway posted consecutive 100-yard games against Houston Baptist and SMU with three touchdowns in that span, while Torrey led the way against Southern Miss with 82 yards and a touchdown.
Charlotte struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball last season and allowed 512 yards and 35 points to Appalachian State to start the 2020 campaign. But the 49ers limited FAU to 315 total yards, including just 98 passing yards. The play of defensive back Ben DeLuca, an Athlon Sports first-team All-Conference USA pick, has provided a bright spot, however. DeLuca collected an FBS-leading 16 tackles against Appalachian State and currently ranks among the top 15 nationally in total tackles (21).
North Texas has certainly had its defensive woes to begin the 2020 season. Its offense has proven that it can score points in bunches, though, which should be enough against a Charlotte team yet to top 20 points this season.
Prediction: North Texas 38, Charlotte 23
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.
(Chris Reynolds photo courtesy of Charlotte Athletics)