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Tennessee Football Opponent Preview: Charlotte 49ers

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Tennessee welcomes its final non-conference opponent of the season to Neyland Stadium.

Southern Miss v Charlotte Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

It’s homecoming weekend in Knoxville as Tennessee takes a respite from its SEC schedule to play its final non-conference game of the season against UNC Charlotte. Tennessee is looking to rebound coming off a heartbreaking 27-24 loss to South Carolina which may loom large in the Vols’ quest for six wins and a bowl berth.

Saturday’s game will be the first meeting between the schools.

Overview

Charlotte is about on par with the other Group of Five teams Tennessee has played in recent years — however, that may not exactly be good news for Vols fans.

Tennessee has struggled in these games in recent years, most recently beating Massachusetts by just four points in 2017. The season prior, the Vols needed overtime to defeat Appalachian State and beat Ohio 28-19.

Charlotte is 4-4, but has won two of its last three games and has not allowed more than 21 points in any of the three.

This Tennessee team under new leadership should be anxious to get another win before its final stretch of SEC games as it remains hopeful to make a bowl game. The Vols will look to put this inferior opponent to bed early.

Last Week

In its last game, Charlotte defeated Southern Mississippi 20-17.

The 49ers got out to a 17-0 lead after a touchdown run from running back Hasaan Klugh and an interception return for a touchdown by Juwan Foggie — the interception was Foggie’s sixth this season, which is the most in FBS.

Charlotte quarterback Evan Shirreffs, a transfer from Miami (Fla.), completed eight of 14 pass attempts for 78 yards and an interception. His Total QBR for the game was 18.2.

Charlotte was out-gained by Southern Miss 426 to 224 yards, but the Golden Eagles’ three turnovers were their ultimate undoing.

Impact Players

RB Benny LeMay — Charlotte has not gotten much production from the quarterback position this season, but LeMay has provided a nice option out of the backfield. The 49ers will rotate several backs throughout a game, but LeMay has been the most reliable option in 2018 with 745 yards on 141 carries and six touchdowns.

LB Juwan Foggie — The anchor of the Charlotte defense, Foggie leads the country in interceptions with six and also has 40 total tackles in 2018. When Jarrett Guarantano throws the ball, look out for No 21.

Game Outlook

This should be a pretty easy win for Tennessee, but as detailed above, that has been the case going into several games recently where the Vols found themselves in a street fight.

I expect Jeremy Pruitt to have his team ready to get back on track before Tennessee ends the season with critical matchups against Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. The Vols should get a nice homecoming victory to get to 4-5 heading into their final three games.