Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#305 Middle Tennessee State vs.
#306 Charlotte
Friday, September 24, 2021 at 6:50pm EDT
Written by Eric P.

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The Charlotte 49ers host the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Friday night from Jerry Richardson Field in a crucial matchup leading into the weekend. Both teams enter the Conference USA matchup winless but the Blue Raiders have already dropped their opener to UTSA. MTSU is without an FBS win on the season and it might be hard for them to find their first against Charlotte on Friday. The 49ers already have a win against a Power 5 opponent and will have plenty of confidence entering Friday's conference matchup. In the preseason CUSA football poll, MTSU was picked to finish fifth in the East Division, while Charlotte was picked just ahead of them in fourth. Charlotte won the last meeting between the two teams in 2019 after MTSU rattled off the first four wins in the series. Friday night will be a crucial night for both teams and fans will be in for a treat in this CUSA emerging rivalry.

MTSU Eyes First FBS Win

Middle Tennessee State University was humbled in the last meeting between the two teams back in 2019 and they'll be looking for the revenge, two years in the making. Middle Tennessee has struggled in a big way this season, only putting up 199 total yards in their Conference USA opener last week. Against Virginia Tech they put up 349 yards and then 344 yards against Monmouth, so it's difficult to know exactly what to expect from the offense. Defensively, has been the larger concern. Last week, they allowed 452 total yards and then 383 yards against Virginia Tech, and will need to be far more stout to find a way to grab a win on the road on Friday. One piece of good news for the Red Raiders is that no one of note appears on the injury report and they should have a contingent of season-long starters ready to get after it again on Friday night.

Offensively, the issues start at quarterback. Both games have seen both quarterbacks get their own fair share of starts, with Bailey Hockman getting the majority of the work. He's combined to go 41-66 on the year, for 463 yards and four touchdowns. Chase Cunningham has been a little sharper, throwing three interceptions and failing to turn over the football yet. The rushing attack has been nearly non-existent so far, with Amir Rsaul leading the team with 29 attempts and only has 80 rushes total. Until the rushing attack gets going more consistently, the offense as a whole will struggle. They won't be able to keep the ball and moving the ball almost seems non-existent at this point, regardless of the opponent. Without any impact receivers either on the outside, Charlotte should have their way on defense.

Defensively, the Blue Raiders aren't expecting to fare much better than they will on the offensive side of things. Reed Blankenship and Gregory Grate will certainly hear their names called often, combining for 5 tackles across three games. The pass rush has been stronger than expected, sacking the opposing quarterback six times, with Jordan Ferguson leading the way with two of those. The secondary continues to be a concern though and while Teldrick Ross has held his own, they have yet to see an offense as physical as what they will see on Friday.

49ers Look To Replicate Opening Season Success

Charlotte impressed in a big way in their season opener, taking down Duke at home in the biggest win of their program's history. Winning 31-28, the 49ers fought despite being outperformed in total yards by over 100 yards. Charlotte somehow found a way to hold the ball for ten more minutes than Duke though and will be expected to use that same strategy on Friday as they look to control the clock and pace of action. They followed up the opening game win with a 38-10 win over an FCS foe in Gardner-Webb but dropped their latest game to Georgia State. Much like Middle Tennessee, Charlotte is pretty healthy themselves, with only Devondre Robinson on the injury list, for now, being questionable Friday with a bicep injury after missing the last two weeks. Middle Tennessee will present a unique opportunity for Charlotte to open up the conference run with a win and playing at home should only add to that opportunity. Against Duke, the fans and student section had a massive impact, and they'll look to create that same atmosphere on Friday night.

Offensively, it's all about controlling the clock for the 49ers. Whether it relies on getting things done on the outside or through the rushing attack, Charlotte still has an offensive more than capable of dominating in time of possession. Chris Reynolds sets the tone at quarterbacks, having tossed five touchdowns and two interceptions across three games, and is averaging close to 200 yards per game. The rushing attack has struggled on the year, which is surprising given the time of possession dominance, but both Calvin Cook (52.33 yards/game) and Shadrick Byrd (43 yards/game) getting the bulk of the carries. Reynolds has added two touchdowns on the ground to his five in the air and with five total touchdowns on the ground. Charlotte's ability to score is already going to put MTSU off-balanced and it shouldn't be difficult for Charlotte to just outscore MTSU.

Defensively, the rushing defense has been a major concern, especially heading into Conference USA play. Against Duke, they allowed 353 rushing yards and against Georgia State, they allowed 284 rushing yards. The rush defense has to be quite a bit more impressive or else Conference USA foes will run all over them all season, including on Friday. Markees Watts has let the way with 27 total tackles, as well as three sacks, and will have his name heard all day. Tyler Murray has been a force as well and Charlotte's team athleticism has been a key to their success over the first three weeks. In the passing game, MTSU won't stand a chance, and even a slight improvement within their rush defense should see Charlotte come out on top without an issue.

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Charlotte is only a three-point favorite and with Friday's game being at home in an atmosphere that already proved itself to be tough to play in against Duke a few weeks ago, Charlotte shouldn't have any issues grabbing the win. One main advantage is the consistency at the quarterback position. While MTSU continues to split snaps at the position, the 49ers are confident in their gun-slinger, as well as in their duo at running back. For MTSU, a complete lack of a rushing attack will come back to bite them on Friday. Charlotte has a brutal rush defense but without MTSU having a solid gameplan in the backfield, their inability to take advantage of Charlotte's main weakness will mean a tough time. Charlotte has far too much athleticism in their passing defense to get exposed by either one of MTSU's quarterbacks. Charlotte looked impressive against Duke in the opener and even if they play a fractional as well on Friday as they did in that game, Charlotte shouldn't have any trouble moving to 1-0 in CUSA play, while the Blue Raiders move to 0-2 in conference play. Expect Charlotte's offense to be on full display at home and MTSU not to have nearly enough weapons or answers to keep pace.

Prediction: Charlotte (-3)

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Charlotte's offense is one of the best in Conference USA and they'll continue to set the pace in most of their games on the season., Defensively though is another story. While the Blu Raiders' rushing and passing attacks haven't turned eyes lately, Charlotte's rushing defense should at least give the 49ers a good shot early at establishing the run game and moving the ball quickly and efficiently. For Charlotte, Reynolds' dual-threat ability is going to allow them to move the ball with ease and Friday's game should see plenty of offense in one of the nation's highest-scoring conferences. Additionally, according to covers.com, for MTSU, the over is 5-1 in their last six games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game and is 5-1 in their last six games following a straight up loss of more than 20 points. For Charlotte, the over is 4-0 in their last four games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game. At least 56 points have been scored in three of the five meetings between these two teams all-time and Friday will make it another occurrence.

Prediction: Over 56
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Written By Eric Ploch , "Eric P."

Eric grew up surrounded by sports, whether it was spending the weekend catching games in person or on tv, or heading out to the fields to play whatever sport was in season. What started as a hobby, soon became a passion, as he became the sports editor of his high school newspaper, then wrote for his university newspaper during his undergrad years. After obtaining a degree in Sports Operations and Promotions, and spending 8 years deeply immersed in the sports world, Eric decided to take his love for analytics and predictions, and his experience, to online sports fans everywhere. James is now an integral part of our team here at StatSalt and has also been a very successful sports bettor over the years. Be sure and follow him daily.