Welcome to Quiz to Success; a weekly post by me, Matt Alquiza. If you’re wondering, my last name is pronounced Al-keys-uh, hence the title of this blog post, “Quiz to Success,” just like “Keys to Success.” So, to be clear, it’s Quiz, not quiz, get it? I think you got it. Niner Nation, let’s ride.
Charlotte travels to Boca Raton to take on the FAU Owls at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. Most betting lines have the Forty-Niners as 7 point underdogs (down from 7.5 which means money is coming in on Charlotte) to the Owls as they look for revenge from they 38-9 drubbing they received last season. Both teams are looking to go 1-0 on the season, but more importantly, they’re looking to notch an early valuable conference win. Here are my Quiz to Success for the Niners.
#1: Defense, defense, defense
Defense, defense, defense, defense…did my point get across? In order for Charlotte to be successful on Saturday, or at any point this season, really, the defense needs to improve. Fourth year head coach Will Healy has overhauled the defensive staff and the change better be apparent early. Greg Brown was hired from Colorado to coordinate the defense and he is starting from square one.
According to Bill Connelly’s preseason SP+, an all-encompassing efficiency metric based on returning production, recent recruiting, and recent history, Charlotte has the 121st (out of 131 teams) ranked defense in the country. Not great! It’ll take a Herculean effort from Brown’s Charlotte defense to slow down the Owls.
FAU is led by dual-threat quarterback N’Kosi Perry. Perry is a sixth year senior who committed to the University of Miami in 2017, and has been at FAU since 2021. Perry is both experienced and talented, and he will without a doubt cause problems for the new look Charlotte defense. In last year’s meeting between Charlotte and FAU, Perry was 9-11 passing for 225 yards and three touchdowns.
The other returning member of the Owls who lit up Charlotte last year is diminutive running back Johnny Ford. Ford stands at 5’5″, but he plays much bigger than that. He dominated Charlotte in 2021 to the tune of eight carries for 92 and a touchdown along with a 32-yard touchdown reception.
Perry and Ford are the lifeblood of the FAU offense and this overhauled Charlotte defensive staff has their hands full in this week zero tilt.
#2: Oh captain, my captain
Chris Reynolds and Markees Watts were both named captains for Charlotte this week, and they’ll need to make a big impact early and often for the Niners. Watts is the best defensive player on this Charlotte roster and Reynolds is the straw that stirs the drink for the Charlotte offense. They’re seasoned, talented, and hungry for a successful season, and they’ll both have to set the tone on Saturday.
Watts had four tackles and recovered two fumbles against FAU last year and they’ll need more of that on Saturday. Watts is the best returning player on the defense and he has the school sack record in sight. He’ll hope to get off to a good start against FAU.
Speaking of records, Chris Reynolds has re-wrote the offensive record book for Charlotte, and the success of this team on the offensive side of the ball relies on his right arm. Reynolds has yet to beat FAU as a Forty-Niner and he has four interceptions in three games against the Owls.
In those three matchups against FAU, Reynolds has led Charlotte to a below-average offensive output. If the defense is unable to make strides this early in the season, Reynolds will need to light up the scoreboard to combat a potent FAU offensive unit.
Thankfully, he has some ballers on offense to throw to.
#3: Big time players making big time plays
Watts and Reynolds are the Charlotte captains, but the Niners three most important players on Saturday are wide receivers Victor Tucker, Elijah Spencer, and Grant DuBose. It’s not hyperbole to say that Tucker and DuBose are among the most talented wide receiver duos in the country, and they’re going to be a handful for Conference USA opponents all season long. Spencer is a more than capable third receiver who also deserves to be mentioned in this conversation.
Tucker (six catches, 105 yards) and DuBose (five catches, 70 yards, touchdown), had decent days at the office against FAU in 2021, but they’ll need to be a play a little bit bigger of a role this year.
In Charlotte’s three victories against FBS schools that both Tucker and DuBose played in, the duo averaged 13 receptions, 212 yards and two touchdowns between them. They’ll need all that and more in order for Charlotte to compete this weekend.
This Charlotte roster has all of the ingredients they need to compete in Conference USA this season. They have an experienced and talented offense, and they have a few pieces for Greg Brown to build a competent defense around. However, there is a reason that they’re 7 point underdogs this weekend. It may take some time for the team to hit their stride, and a week zero conference matchup on the road is a swift punch in mouth to begin a long season.
HOWEVER. I am picking the Niners to win this game. Maybe it’s my pride, maybe it’s the thousands of dollars I’ve given to the University in tuition, room and board, food, tickets, etc., tainting my thoughts, but I truly believe that Charlotte will walk out of Boca Raton with the neon glow of Club Lit sign lighting up the plane ride home.
Charlotte 34 FAU 31