A loss, and the season is over.
The Charlotte game would have been significantly easier to predict had the 49ers not announced following last week’s loss to FIU that they wouldn’t be retaining coach Brad Lambert for next season. But Lambert will coach Saturday’s game. Will the 49ers rally to give their coach a going away present? Or, with assistants scrambling to land jobs for next season, has Charlotte already packed it in?
Each week our Chuck King and Wajih AlBaroudi offer their predictions for what will happen during Saturday’s game. Here’s what they are expecting when Charlotte comes to FAU to face FAU.
FAU OFFENSE VS. CHARLOTTE
King: Running back Gerald Hearns scores a touchdown. Primarily a special team performer this season, as expected, the Owls’ third-string running back only has 11 rushes for 94 yards on the year. A former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship prior to the start of the season, Hearns will be playing his final regular-season game at FAU. With the Owls leading big late, Lane Kiffni gives Hearns the ball and the senior converts a red zone opportunity into his first career touchdown.
AlBaroudi: Jovon Durante has a double-digit reception game. Charlotte stops opposing rushing attacks at one of the best rates in the country, but its pass defense has suffered as a result. The 49ers are allowing the highest completion percentage in Conference USA (66.8), giving up plenty of dump offs underneath by selling out to stop the run. Extra defensive attention will be paid to Harrison Bryant after the tight end’s big game last week, which sets up Durante for a high-usage night in FAU’s regular-season finale.
FAU DEFENSE VS. CHARLOTTE
King: Linebacker Rashad Smith intercepts another pass for the Owls. Smith already leads FAU with four picks this season. That’s quite a surprise considering the quality of defensive backs the Owls boast. But Smith has made the most of his opportunities, where Shelton Lewis, Jalen Young, James Pierre and Chris Tooley have struggled. Smith’s interception ensures that he will lead the Owls in picks this season.
AlBaroudi: Charlotte quarterback Hasaan Klugh will throw a pick-six. A former two-year starter, Klugh has been a backup for most of this season before earning his first start last week. Klugh will try to make up for lost time in his final collegiate game, forcing throws into tighter windows than what’s available. FAU will take advantage of that overagressiveness by jumping the passing lane and taking an interception to the house.
FAU WILDCARD VS. CHARLOTTE
King: If FAU wins the game, the Owls will go bowling. Where? That’s anyone’s guess, but let’s say it’s a short trip to the Bahamas. Even at six wins FAU isn’t guaranteed to go bowling. Many things have to go right for FAU, including losses by teams from prominent leagues. But the star power of Lane Kiffin and the curiosity regarding Devin Singletary prove to be too much for television to resist.
AlBaroudi: FAU will start slow but eventually win by three scores. When coaches get fired, logic can often be thrown out the window in predicting how their team will respond. And that is exactly the case with Lambert, who will be manning the sidelines for Charlotte a final time. The 49ers will come out strong to honor the only coach they’ve had in program history, but the rally won’t last long. FAU is simply the more talented team and will put that on display once Charlotte’s initial energy boost loses its steam.