While Zach covered many important points concerning University of Charlotte’s transition to the FBS, in my opinion he missed the most relevant and noteworthy topic: their expected horrific defense. As we learned from Old Dominion these past couple of years, the transition up a level is not so much felt in terms of starting talent, but overall depth. The lack of FBS level talent permeating through a newly promoted team’s roster is mostly felt on defense, where substitutions are essential in order to keep up with today’s fast paced offenses. While a team like Charlotte could hope to recruit some quality players on each side of the ball, it’s exponentially more difficult to recruit the requisite depth to be competitive those first few years after making the leap.
While we’ve had multiple new teams join the FBS ranks the past few years, I believe ODU provides the best comp for what we can expect from Charlotte. ODU played lots of high scoring games and showed little in the way of defense before joining the FBS – here’s what their results looked like this past year, the Monarchs’ first full season in the FBS:
|Sat, Aug 30||vs. Hampton||W 41-28|
|Sat, Sept 6||@ NC State||L 46-34|
|Sat, Sept 13||vs. E Michigan||W 17-3|
|Sat, Sept 20||@ Rice||W 45-42|
|Fri, Sept 26||vs. Mid Tennessee||L 41-28|
|Sat, Oct 4||vs. Marshall||L 56-14|
|Sat, Oct 11||@ UTEP||L 42-35|
|Sat, Oct 25||@ W Kentucky||L 66-51|
|Sat, Nov 1||@Vanderbilt||L 42-28|
|Sat, Nov 8||vs. FIU||W 38-35|
|Sat, Nov 22||vs. LA Tech||W 30-27|
|Sat, Nov 29||@ FAU||W 31-28|
It’s easy to recognize here that ODU really couldn’t stop anyone. 28 points to Hampton? 42 points to an AWFUL Vanderbilt offense? The results down the stretch are actually pretty respectable, but we’re still looking at combined scoring games of 53, 57, and 59 points. My point I’m trying to make here is that while Old Dominion put up a lot of points, even against anemic offenses, their defense was exploitable. This is what I expect from Charlotte in 2015.
Charlotte allowed 260 yards a game through the air last season– which was good for 19th most in all the FCS in 2014. This number includes matchups against such powerhouses as Wesley College (who Charlotte gave up 356 yards passing to!!!) and Johnson Smith (Yahoo doesn’t even have logos for these schools.) Looking forward to this year, we should expect Old Dominion-type box scores from the 49ers, and should be looking to exploit this on a weekly basis in DFS. Going up against Charlotte could potentially be a Coors Field type upgrade for opponents, with opposing players likely being priced no differently than they would any given week – leading to weekly exploitability. So let’s try and look ahead at this year’s opponents and give a brief preview of the possibilities.
Week 1: @ Georgia State (Friday)
Week 1 is ALWAYS as close to a crapshoot as you can get in CFB DFS, with suspensions being handed down, position battles still being fought, and starters being pulled after a few series if things aren’t going right. The Nick Arbuckle-led attack racking up a ton of points on Charlotte should be as close to a lock as you can get. With lots of other great options likely to be available in this slate (Brandon Doughty – Western Kentucky, Trevone Boykin – TCU, Seth Russell – Baylor, etc.) Arbuckle will likely fly under the radar. Georgia State loves to air it out and has a terrible defense – this game will produce real fireworks.
Week 2: v. Presbyterian
The 49ers revisit their FCS roots – won’t be included in DFS slates, unfortunately.
Week 3: @ Middle Tennessee State
Austin Grammar put up a huge week against hapless ODU last year – no reason to think the Blue Raiders won’t drop 40 points this year on Charlotte.
Week 4: v. Florida Atlantic
To me, Jacquez Johnson always feels like he has more upside than he actually does, but this week he’s hitting value.
Week 5: v. Temple (Friday)
The likely mid-week slate will be:
Miami (FL) @ Cincinnati
Memphis @ USF
Temple @ Charlotte
Taysom Hill (assuming his knee doesn’t give out by this time in the season) will obviously be the QB1 on this slate. Paxton Lynch and Gunner Kiel will probably be highly owned as well and I expect that Bryant Sherriffs will have broken out by this point in the season as well. Kaaya has a nice matchup against a historically poor Cincy D. This all potentially leads to a nice opportunity for PJ Walker to slip through the cracks. Granted, the way he was utilized in the Temple Offense last year was mind-numbing for fantasy owners, but his tools are undeniable. Assuming he hasn’t had a full on breakout across the first four weeks of 2015, we could be looking at a modestly priced option on a short slate full of more obvious options – a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the 49ers.
Week 6: Bye Week
Lick those wounds boys, more gashing to come!
Week 7: @ Old Dominion
Oh man, it’s the battle of former FCS teams! Expect fireworks aplenty, though as of the time of this article being written, there are a lot of unknown elements in the ODU attack (who will replace Heineke? Will they continue to air it out?) but we should expect an Offense that emphasizes Ray Lowry, who could definitely be in for a big week.)
Week 9: v. Marshall
As of now, it’s looking like Michael Birdsong will be Rakeem Cato’s replacement. Stacking him and Devon Johnson will probably be a must this week, even though Devon will in all likelihood be the most costly RB in whatever slate the game appears.
Week 10: @ FIU
This is the first week that Charlotte faces a truly impotent QB, from a fantasy perspective, in FIU QB Alex McGough. Caveat that he was a True Freshman in 2014, but the dude only threw for more than 200 yards three times and only tossed 3+ TDs on one occasion. Unless he makes a serious leap in 2015, expect him to be a very low priced option in Week 9. Career games usually happen for a reason, and this as good an opportunity as McGough will get to breach the 300 yard plateau.
Week 11: v. UTSA
I confess – I know very little about UTSA. However, Larry Coker has made them fairly competitive in short order, though most of that is due to a relatively stout defense. Likely starter Austin Robinson only threw for one touchdown (total) in the six games he appeared in last year, so even I can’t recommend him in this matchup (quite yet, at least.)
Week 12: @ Kentucky
The fear here is that Kentucky drops a 40 spot early on through a combination of special teams/defensive scores, and spreads the wealth (as they historically like to do) when on offense. That being said, it’s still very likely that QB Patrick Towles hits value, whatever his price is – finding that secondary piece to stack with him on the Wildcats squad though might be tricky.
Week 13: @ Rice
Driphus Jackson should be in for a big week to close out the regular season. Rice normally doesn’t put too much of the offensive burden on his shoulders (they have a multitude of backs that see carries) and Driphus lost his best receiver, Jordan Taylor, to graduation – but this should be a final chance to exploit a cheap QB who should put up points against this horrific defense.
Overall, I’ll be going into weeks this season looking to specifically exploit this undermanned Charlotte defense. Historical data and Charlotte’s specific characteristics tell us that this should be a winning strategy. I suggest that you make it a point of your weekly routine to at least note the pricing of 49er opponents.