After beating Middle Tennessee in 42-39 thriller at home last week, the Charlotte 49er football team looks for their second Power 5 win of the season at Illinois. After winning their first game of the season against Wisconsin 30-22, the Fighting Illini are on a four-game losing streak. One of those losses came to another Conference USA team in UTSA.
For the 49ers, they come into the Saturday noon game with an impressive offense.
Sports Editor, Bradley Cole: Charlotte beats Illinois, 24-20
Charlotte comes into this contest with all the momentum on their side with a thrilling home win last week and a Power 5 win on their resume. The Fighting Illini have had only one opponent outside of the Power Five conferences and a Conference USA loss at home against UTSA in week 2.
Both of these teams have struggled in one area more than others. The 49ers have had trouble on defense, while Illinois has had trouble scoring points. In their last game against Purdue, quarterback Brandon Peters only threw for 17 yards on eight passing attempts for Illinois. Charlotte allowed 40-plus points for the first time this season.
With that said, I think Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds will follow up his 339 passing yard and four touchdown game from last week. I predict that both the running and passing games will be too much for Illinois and the 49ers will come back to Charlotte with their second signature win of 2021.
Staff Writer, Cameron Williams: Illinois beats Charlotte, 34-14
The 49ers have not made enough progress in their run defense to stop a team who finished third in the Big Ten last season in total yards and yards per game. I think the Illini defense will be too much for the 49ers to put up a lot of points like they did last week against Middle Tennessee, so this is not an ideal matchup top to bottom for the 49ers.
Chris Reynolds will have another good game, and both touchdowns predicted, the 49ers will get through the air. One to Grant DuBose and one to Victor Tucker. Other than that, it will be a fighting Illini controlled game. I feel that Charlotte will have more pass yards than Illinois, but I think the Illini will out gain the 49ers on the ground by 50 yards or more. They will run a lot and control the time of possession. All of this taken into account, this is why the score prediction is as wide of a margin as it is.
Assistant Sports Editor, Bryson Foster: Charlotte beats Illinois, 35-31
Charlotte comes into this matchup with Illinois looking to push their win streak to two this weekend. The 49ers have newfound energy after defeating Duke and Middle Tennessee State in two offensive showdowns this season. The team will look to get their second win over a power-five conference opponent on Saturday.
The 49ers will get back on track defensively, and it will pay dividends this weekend. The defense will do just enough to give the team the advantage over the Fighting Illini. Expect linebackers Luke Martin and Tyler Murray to put up big numbers and lead the defense during the game.
Quarterback Chris Reynolds, who won the C-USA offensive player of the week against MTSU, will push this high octane offense with athletic receivers Victor Tucker and Grant Dubose down the field to keep the team in it. The running game will be significant in this one, so expect Shadrick Byrd, the Iowa transfer, to be instrumental due to his experience against Big Ten defenses.
I expect a similar back and forth matchup just like the Duke game. The 49ers will get the job done and come out on top 35-31.
Staff Writer, Joey Ellsworth: Charlotte beats Illinois 31-20
While Charlotte comes into this game fresh off a Power 5 win just last month, Illinois is on a four-game losing streak.
The 49ers have seen some defensive struggles this season. Last week they allowed 39 points from Middle Tennessee, despite winning. While they have scored an average of 30 points per game, they have also allowed 24.5 points per game.
While the 49ers have allowed 24.25 points per game over the span of the season, Illinois averages a score of 20 points per game and just 13.33 in the last three weeks. This is where Illinois struggles most and has caused their losses as of late.
Illinois has yet to stop any team’s passing and fans should expect Charlotte QB, Chris Reynolds, to take advantage of the lacking pass defense of Illinois.
An Illinois win would likely need to come from the run game, something Charlotte has struggled with a lot over the span of the season. The Niners have allowed six yards per carry this season, a lot more than the 4.8 yards per carry they have themselves. While Illinois has ran slightly better than their opponents this season, I don’t see Illinois executing the run well enough to get a win.
I predict Illinois will start with a field goal while the Niners get a TD on their opening drive and will hold Illinois to just two total touchdowns and two field goals while getting four touchdowns and a field goal of their own. I think three of the Niners’ touchdowns will come from Reynolds and he will have his third 200+ yard passing game. Charlotte will come out on top by low double digits.
Intern, Juwan Watson: Charlotte beats Illinois, 24-17.
Another power five opponent for Charlotte this week as they look to have a good outing against Illinois.
Coming into this game, Charlotte and Illinois are struggling to stop the run. So I don't expect either team to shy away from the run game. With Charlotte having three outstanding running backs in Calvin Camp, Chavon McEachern, and Iowa transfer Shadrick Byrd, I see this as an opportunity to keep moving the ball in the running game. This also brings along the chance for Quarterback Chris Reynolds to get involved in the run game just like he did against Middle Tennessee State.
The 49ers defense will look to step up defensively after giving up 39 points last week against Middle Tennessee State.
Illinois is on a four game skid since beating Nebraska week one. Being back at home, Illinois will look to make a stance defensively against a good Charlotte offense. For the Fighting Illini offense, running Back Joshua McCray will look to capitalize against the Charlotte defense. I think the 49ers defense will hold McCray under 100 yards. In the end, I see Charlotte having a game winning touchdown drive to win it 24-17.