The Charlotte 49ers say they carry no illusions as they enter their first season at college football’s highest level.
There is nowhere to go but up for the 49ers, according to some national experts, and players say that will provide plenty of incentive.
“We’re viewed as a team of have-nots that the other 127 (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams didn’t want,” said senior wide receiver Austin Duke, a product of Independence High School. “We have a lot to prove.”
There are 128 universities playing FBS football this season, and the 49ers were ranked No. 128 in preseason by USA Today and SB Nation. Several experts predict Charlotte will win only one of its 12 games – presumably the home opener Sept. 12 against Presbyterian, the only team from the lower Football Championship Subdivision on the 49ers’ schedule.
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In the preseason Conference USA poll, Charlotte was picked to finish at the bottom in the East Division.
The 49ers players and coaches say they understand the low expectations. Charlotte has never played an FBS opponent – facing FCS, Division II and Division III competition in its first two seasons.
“I understand it,” coach Brad Lambert said. “When they (experts) look at us, they see a team that hasn’t played an FBS game. You start at the bottom.”
Lambert adds, “It gives you a little chip on your shoulder.”
Senior offensive lineman Danny Book said: “That’s definitely a motivational tool. But it’s to be expected. We’re the new kids on the block.”
The 49ers will face only one of the three teams expected to dominate Conference USA this season – Marshall, which visits Charlotte on Halloween. The 49ers don’t face Western Kentucky, the preseason favorite, or Louisiana Tech.
“We are who we are,” Lambert said. “We keep working hard every day, and we’ll carry that to the field with us.”