The college football fad of interchanging conferences has especially hit home for the Conference USA.
The jumbled assembly appeared eerily unique in 2014, when programs such as East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa all detached ties with the C-USA en rout to their initiation within the American Athletic.
While Old Dominion broke the surface a year ago to somewhat cork the cavity left by the trio, the conference welcomes yet another party to the ranks for 2015.
In lieu of scrambling for a potential ‘Group of Five’ representative to plug the gap, the Charlotte 49ers saunter in as the cutting-edge club previously out of the FCS.
While their framework deems unknown for most, we decided to clamp on to the 49ers as they prepare for their inaugural season in the FBS.
Head Coach: Brad Lambert (3rd Year)
Record: 10-12 (5-6 both seasons)
School Colors: Green and White
Mascot: Norm the Niner
9/4 @ Georgia State
9/19 @ Middle Tennessee State
9/26 Florida Atlantic
10/2 Temple Owls
10/17 @ Old Dominion
10/24 Southern Mississippi
11/7 @ FIU
11/21 @ Kentucky
11/28 @ Rice
Players to Watch
Austin Duke WR
Lambert on Duke: “Austin is another guy that we think can stretch the field. He has a ton of personality, and will definitely be fun to watch on Saturdays” (Charlotte49ers.com).
Certified with a preseason All C-USA 3rd-Team bid, Duke should carry the load at wide receiver for Charlotte. While I don’t believe the Niners supply the dynamics of Old Dominion when they first entered, they’re still capable of slinging the ball around, which should work out fine amidst a pass-heavy conference; the 49ers should fit right in, and Duke topped all receivers in 2013, securing 62 catches and six scores.
Kalif Phillips RB
An addition to the 3rd-Team, Phillips possesses the versatility to both rush and catch the ball out of the backfield, as he did both efficiently in 2013. At 5’11” and 185 pounds, he’s not necessarily a force to trample over opposing defenses, but supplies tremendous ability in hitting holes.
He won’t shake too many defenders with lateral shiftiness but should be handed much of the rushing attempts in 2015.
What Vegas is Saying
The oddsmakers currently project Charlotte around the 2-3 win mark (2.5 via 5Dimes), so while they should seize a victory over Presbyterian come week two, the rest remains a mystery.
A first-year program shouldn’t hold lofty expectations, especially jamming itself into a much more competitive core like the C-USA.
While the goal of every program lies within vanquishing each member of its gauntlet, Charlotte should be a boisterous squad to catch up on once Saturdays arise, whether it exceed its calculations or not.