Heavily-Favored Panthers Expected to Defeat Charlotte in Close Game

Jacob Spiwak

Asst. Sports Director


For the first time all season, I won’t be writing about how important FIU’s next football game is in my weekly preview. Sure, mathematically they still have a slight chance of making a bowl game this winter, and winning this weekend is imperative to keep that hope alive.

However, any realistic chance for the Panthers to make a bowl game is gone after the way they lost to Florida Atlantic University last week. So, here we are, looking forward to a game that might (but more than likely does not) hold significant importance for FIU’s postseason hopes.

The Panthers (4-5, 2-3) return home this Saturday, Nov. 7, to play a University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers team (2-6, 0-5) that is still searching for their first win in Conference USA.

In their inaugural season as an FBS team, the 49ers have predictably struggled mightily. After winning their first two games against very low-level competition, the 49ers have lost six consecutive games with an offense that has been essentially unable to score.

Their defense isn’t any good either, but when compared to the 49ers’ offense (ranked 126th out of 128 FBS teams in points per game), their 100th ranked defense in points allowed doesn’t look quite as bad.

The main thing Charlotte struggles with is passing the ball. Whether it’s junior quarterback Lee McNeill or junior Matt Johnson under center, Charlotte has consistently been unable to do anything through the air except throw interceptions.

Enter an FIU defense with arguably the two best veteran cornerbacks in C-USA (Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon), and we may just see Charlotte QBs add to their already horrible interception totals.

After playing rather pedestrian for just the first or second time this year against FAU, I think FIU quarterback Alex McGough will bounce back and deliver one of the solid performances we’ve gotten used to seeing from him in 2015.

It remains to be seen if he’ll get some of his top weapons like Jonnu Smith or Ya’Keem Griner back this week, but I think McGough will play much better regardless of who he’s throwing to.

We’ve seen the Panthers favored by double digits a couple times this season, but this week they’ve opened at 19-point favorites, which is by far the biggest number they’ve been given all season.

Despite how poorly Charlotte has looked in their first FBS season, after the lack of enthusiasm FIU showed against their archrivals just last week, I have trouble understanding why the number is so lopsided.

Don’t get me wrong – FIU is a significantly better team than Charlotte. The Panthers have dealt with critical injuries all season long and they still put a great deal of talent on the field week in and week out.

Charlotte, on the other hand, is one of the lowest ranked teams in the entire country. FIU should absolutely win this game, but by 19 or more points? I can’t buy into that after their performance against FAU.

Prediction: FIU defeats Charlotte 24-17. While I don’t think the Panthers have any shot at a bowl game anymore, I do think they’ll rebound from the FAU loss and win a close one over Charlotte.

No matter which FIU players are able to return from injury on Saturday, I think their overall talent will be too much for the 49ers to handle. I expect Charlotte to keep this game closer than many expect, but in the end FIU will be able to walk away with their fifth (and probably final) victory of 2015.

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