Duke vs. Charlotte College Football Odds & Picks: 49ers Having Betting Value at Home (Friday, Sept. 3)
Silas Walker/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Reynolds.
- The Duke Blue Devils open their season on the road Friday night, facing the Charlotte 49ers.
- Both teams are coming off a two-win season in 2020, with one of those Duke wins being a 53-19 victory over this Charlotte team.
- Check out BJ Cunningham's full betting guide with odds, picks, and predictions for the game.
College Football Week 1 Odds
Duke vs. Charlotte
Duke makes the short trip west to take on in-state foe Charlotte in a rematch of a 53-19 drubbing in Durham last season.
The 49ers enter as short underdogs, but can they hang with their ACC foe on Friday night?
Let’s dive in.
The Blue Devils are projected to be in the basement of the ACC in David Cutcliffe’s 13th year at the helm. They’ll have new faces all over the field, including at quarterback, with Chase Brice transferring to Appalachian State.
Duke returns just 47% production on offense and 60% on defense, according to TARP, which is way below the NCAA average in the year of the super senior.
The Blue Devils’ win total for the season sits at only 3.5, and if they are going to eclipse that, they have to win on the road at Charlotte to open the season.
Blue Devils Offense
Duke’s offense last season was, for lack of a better word, horrendous. It couldn’t move the ball through the air or on the ground, ranking outside the top 85 in both Passing and Rushing Success Rate.
Brice’s transfer from Clemson did not go as planned, as he threw for only 6.2 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. However, he has now moved on, which means Gunnar Holmberg — who had only 28 dropbacks last season — will take over.
Holmberg doesn’t throw down the field much and is accurate on short-distance passes. His problem is stretching the field.
Holmberg was a three-star coming out of high school and had been patiently waiting for three years for his opportunity to be the starter.
However, he’s not going to have great protection because the offensive line is in a state of flux, with a guard and former tight end moving over to play the two tackle positions. For an offensive line that was outside the top 100 in Havoc Allowed and Sack Rate, things do not look like they are going to get better anytime soon.
If the offensive line can improve, it may make way for an improved run game behind Mataeo Durant, who was amazing last season. He gained 6.8 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns in tandem with Deon Jackson. However, running behind a makeshift offensive line is not an easy task to do.
Duke will have some players back at the skill positions, especially at wide receiver.
Its top two pass catchers — Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun — return, along with a potential breakout candidate in Jake Marwede at tight end. Their potential success will depend on the play of Holmberg, though.
Turnover luck might be coming the Blue Devils’ way, too, because they turned the ball over a staggering 39 times in 11 games, which led the FBS.
A lot of that had to do with Brice, but a weak offensive line does not make things any easier for the offense.
Blue Devils Defense
The front seven is going to be a major concern for the Blue Devils this season. It’s going from one of best units in the ACC to one of the worst.
The reason for that is the departure of their top three players on the defensive line, including Chris Rumph and Victor Dimukeje, who combined for 15.5 sacks last season. So, it’s safe to say Duke will not be earning a Sack Rate rank of 11th like it did last season.
Duke was terrible against the run last season, ranking 96th in Rushing Success Allowed, 88th in Line Yards, and 112th in Stuff Rate. It does bring back some experience in their linebacking corps, but things are not going to improve with the loss of their two best defensive players.
Defensive coordinators Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri ranked 110th in EPA Per Run allowed in 2020, per PFF.
The Blue Devils secondary was a bit of a mess last season, ranking 86th in coverage, per PFF. However, they had to deal with a couple of injuries last year with Lummie Young and Josh Blackwell missing considerable time.
They are back healthy this season and should give Duke a boost in the secondary after the Blue Devils allowed 7.9 yards per attempt in 2020.
Charlotte begins year three of the Will Healy era after a 2-4 season in 2020.
The 49ers are projected to finish in the top three of the Conference USA East division, and that is pretty much reliant on the performance of long-time starting quarterback Chris Reynolds.
The Niners are +2500 to win Conference USA and have a win total of 5, so they are not expected to light the conference up, but they should return closer to what they were in 2019, especially offensively.
Charlotte’s offensive success is pretty much entirely reliant on Reynolds, who has been the starting quarterback since 2018. He had a career year in 2019, throwing for 8.8 yards per attempt and 22 touchdowns.
Last season, though, he took a big dip, as his yards per attempt went down to 7.5.
A lot of that had to do with the fact that he tore his labrum on the first play of the season last year and played through the injury in the final five games of the season.
He’s still one of the best quarterbacks in Conference USA (in 2019, he had the highest offensive rating among all QBs, per PFF), so if he is back and healthy, the Charlotte offense is going to improve.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) September 28, 2019
Reynolds will have plenty of targets to throw to like Victor Tucker, Taylor Thompson, and Cameron Dollar, who helped a hurt Reynolds still throw for over the NCAA average in terms of yards per attempt.
Charlotte ranked 72nd in Passing Success last season, so that number will no doubt improve with a ton of weapons around a healthy Reynolds.
Charlotte really leaned on its rushing attack last season, running the ball 57% of the time. I highly doubt it’s going to run at that high of a percentage this season for two reasons:
- It has the most inexperienced offensive line in Conference USA and is coming off an Offensive Line Yards ranking of 121st.
- It’s breaking in a new running back in Iowa transfer Shadrick Byrd, as its top two rushers from last season are gone.
Weirdly enough though, the 49ers ranked 12th in Finishing Drives last season, so it’s an offense that can be effective and put points on the board.
Also, they did lose to Duke, 53-19, last year, but the Blue Devils only outgained them 401-348.
This is where things get dicey for the 49ers.
Charlotte is projected to have one of the worst defenses in Conference USA and will be relying on a ton of transfers, especially on the defensive line.
Healy brought in a couple of Power Five transfers for the defensive line like Kofi Wardlow from Notre Dame and Joshua Bailey from Iowa State, who were both former three-star recruits coming out of high school.
The defensive line ranked 105th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 96th in Defensive Line Yards, and Duke ran all over it last season, putting up 274 yards on 38 carries. So, hopefully for the 49ers, the addition of a few Power Five transfers can improve things.
Charlotte’s secondary was atrocious last season, ranking 101st in Passing Success Allowed. However, it earned a PFF coverage ranking of 60th and only allowed 7.5 yards per attempt.
In fact, in the game against Duke last season, the Blue Devils racked up only 127 passing yards on 17 attempts. However, they lose most of their secondary from last season and will be relying purely on transfers in 2021.
Duke vs. Charlotte Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Duke and Charlotte match up statistically:
Duke Offense vs. Charlotte Defense
Charlotte Offense vs. Duke Defense
Pace of Play / Other
I think Charlotte is a live dog at home to open the season. With an experienced quarterback like Reynolds with weapons around him, it should be able to move the ball on Duke’s secondary.
There are also way too many question marks with Duke’s offense breaking in a new starting quarterback and having a makeshift offensive line.
Duke vs. Charlotte Betting Pick
This line has stayed pat since the opening of -6.5.
The ticket percentage sits at 65% in favor of Duke -6.5, but 57% of the money is on Charlotte +6.5, so that would tell me the line is likely going to drop to +6 rather than go up to 7.
I have Charlotte projected as only +3.67 underdogs, so I think there’s some value on the 49ers at home with an experienced quarterback at +6.5. However, I would only play it down to +5.5.