Clemson is a 41-point favorite heading into Saturday’s home game against Charlotte, a program that has yet to have a .500 season or better since it was started in 2013.
But don’t tell that to Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, who is expecting a tough test against the 49ers.
Swinney said during his weekly press conference Tuesday that Charlotte is a team that can give the Tigers fits.
“This is a team offensively that is going to challenge us. Very impressed watching them on tape,” Swinney said. “This is the most explosive team we have played to this point.”
Charlotte is off to a 2-1 start in its first year under new head coach Will Healy, who was previously the head coach at Austin Peay.
The 49ers are averaging 47 points and 522 yards per game. Their only loss is a 56-41 loss at App. State in Week 2.
“Biggest thing I’m impressed with is how well-coached they are. Schematically, this is probably the biggest challenge for our defense this season so far in what they do structurally,” Swinney said. “Multiple personnel, multiple formations, create a lot of challenges alignment-wise and communication-wise.”
Swinney is also impressed with 49ers running back Benny LeMay. The senior has 351 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2019 while averaging 7.6 yards per carry.
As a team the 49ers are averaging 297 rushing yards per game.
“This is the best rushing team we’ve seen in three games. Their ability to run the ball and how they’re coordinated to run the ball. Their running back is a tough, thick, physical runner,” Swinney said. “This is a team that could embarrass us if we don’t have a great week of preparation, because they’re a different type of challenge than we’ve seen.”
Charlotte is led on offense by quarterback Chris Reynolds, who is a dual-threat QB who can beat teams with his arm and his legs.
Reynolds has 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns through three games, along with 587 passing yards and seven touchdowns. He is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes.
“Quarterback is a heck of a player. Always an equalizer when the quarterback is a runner and they run him a lot,” Swinney said. “They do some unique things in how they run him and split your defense with misdirection and different type of read stuff, and the pop passes to go with it. Their receivers are skilled and have made a lot of one-on-one plays and plays in space.”
Swinney is also impressed with what Charlotte does defensively. The 49ers are allowing 34 points per game, but Swinney doesn’t believe that tells the whole story.
He compared 49ers defensive end Alex Highsmith to Tigers star Xavier Thomas.
“They probably have the best player that we’ve seen to this point in that No. 5 (Highsmith). He’s on all the ‘great player’ lists,” Swinney said. “I kept watching him and going, ‘Holy cow.’ He looks like Xavier Thomas. He’s physical, fast, disruptive. He’s causing sacks and tips. Really, really good football player. That No. 5 could play for anybody in the country.”
Who: Charlotte (2-1, 0-0 C-USA) at No. 1 Clemson (3-0, 2-0 ACC)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium (81,500), Clemson
TV: ACC Network
Line: Clemson by 41