The Charlotte 49ers are making the jump to FBS in college football this season joining Conference USA and they open up their season at Georgia State on Friday.
A fledging FBS football program has a legitimate chance to at the very least cover the point spread in its first game ever in College Football’s top division when those Charlotte 49ers, the newest members of Conference USA, open up play by visiting the Georgia State Panthers of the Sun Belt Conference at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA Friday at 3:30 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Charlotte as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +7½ with odds of -115.
Welcome to the Big Leagues!
Actually, the 49ers have only played organized college football for two years, not even beginning play at the FCS level until 2013! Charlotte has spent the first two years of its football existence as an FCS Independent, but it has not played like a fledging football program going 5-6 as straight up college football picks in each of those first two years.
Georgia State is actually not much more established than Charlotte is as an FBS school, as the Panthers have only been at this top level for two years themselves. And whoever wins this game will be posting its first win ever over an FBS school. Yes, you read that correctly! You see, Georgia State is 1-23 straight up its first two years in FBS, and the lone win came over an FCS opponent when the Panthers nipped Abilene Christian 38-37 to open up the season last year.
So Georgia State is one point away from being winless since joining the FBS, it had never beaten an FBS school and it is now a 7½-point favorite?
Realistic Chance to Win in First FBS Game
The Georgia State point spread actually opened up at -4 but has been bet up to the current -7½, with bettors no doubt buying into the experience that Georgia State has had in FBS, however minimal it has been, while taking on a team that has never played at this level. However, considering that Georgia State’s only win in the last two years was by one point vs. an FCS school, we feel that almost blind support is a mistake.
In fact a case can be made that Charlotte winning 10 games in the first two years of its football existence, regardless of the level, is a bigger accomplishment than Georgia State just showing up vs. FBS opponents every week but never winning. And the 49ers certainly seemed equipped to score a lot of points vs. this poor Georgia State defense, maybe even enough points for an outright upset!
Charlotte is more experienced than you might think with many players on both sides of the ball being with the program since its inception two years ago. The 49ers have a running back in Kalif Phillips coming off a 1,436-yard rushing season in FCS, they return their top two receivers in Austin Duke and Trent Bostick and they have also added a Georgia transfer and former four-star recruit at wide receiver in Uriah LeMay.
The 49ers had a quick-strike offense that produced 22 touchdown drives of 90 seconds or less last season and their head coach Brad Lambert is no stranger to the FBS, having served as an assistant coach at Wake Forest for 10 years.
Mess of a Georgia State Defense
The 37 points that Georgia State allowed to Abilene Christian in the 2014 season-opening win should have been a precursor, as the team had virtually no chance to win the rest of the way once FBS schools turned up on the schedule, as the defense ranked dead last among the 128 FBS schools in points against at a disgusting 43.3 points per game, as well as 119th in total defense surrendering 497.1 yards per contest.
And the worst part is there are no notable additions to that atrocious defense other than defensive lineman Julien Laurent, who spent last year at New Mexico Military Institute and now hopes to improve a line that recorded only 12 sacks last year. Still, there were simply too many problems on defense for Laurent to make that much of a difference, such as the 303.4 rushing yards per game allowed, 51.9 percent third-down rate allowed and just eight forced turnovers.
The offense fared a bit better and that unit does return senior quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who threw for 3,283 yards with 23 touchdowns in 2014. However, he also tossed 17 interceptions and the offense was one-dimensional with the running game averaging just 96.3 yards per game on a scant 3.0 yards per carry. Thus the Charlotte Coach Lambert should be able to devise a defensive game plan geared on containing the passing game.
What Home Field Advantage?
Finally, the Panthers have not really enjoyed much of a home field advantage from a betting perspective either since joining the FBS, going just 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games, with the lone cover coming in a 48-38 loss to Air Force as 12-point underdogs last season.
Add this all up and Georgia State does not seem worthy of this much favoritism regardless of the opponent, so look for Charlotte’s debut as an FBS school to be a winning one against the spread and quite possibly straight up on the field too on Friday.
College Football Pick: Charlotte +7½ (-115)