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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | December 19, 2019

Buffalo vs. Charlotte: Bahamas Bowl prediction, time, TV channel, preview

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Charlotte and Buffalo will meet at 2 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 20, in the 2019 Bahamas Bowl from Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau.

Here's a prediction, preview, time and TV channel information for the game.

Charlotte vs. Buffalo: Bahamas Bowl prediction, preview

This season, Charlotte (7-5) became bowl-eligible for the first time since joining the FBS in 2015. In the first season under coach Will Healy, the 49ers won more than half the number of games the program did in the previous four seasons (12).

On the opposite sideline will be a Buffalo team that has made back-to-back bowl games for the first time in the program's FBS history. Just contrast the Bulls' current record over the last two seasons (17-9) with their worst two-season stretch (2-22 in 2002-03) since they rejoined the FBS in 1999.

Even though neither team has played a game in roughly three weeks, both Buffalo and Charlotte will enter the Bahamas Bowl after strong second halves of their seasons not only allowed them to reach bowl eligibility, but eclipse six wins.

Charlotte won its last five games, while Buffalo won its last two and five of its last six.

The Bahamas Bowl will feature a strength-on-strength matchup as Charlotte's No. 51-ranked defense will try to move the ball against Buffalo's No. 49 defense. Those units are each team's better side of the ball, respectively, compared to Buffalo's No. 97-ranked offense and Charlotte's No. 115-ranked defense.

With the potential for wind gusts north of 30 miles per hour, moving the chains could be even tougher than usual, especially through the air. Luckily, both teams emphasize the run over the pass so if Mother Nature isn't in the mood to let any passing records potentially be broken, windy conditions may not affect Buffalo and Charlotte as much as they would other teams.

Buffalo has run the ball 613 times compared to 261 pass attempts this season, which is roughly 70 percent of the time, while Charlotte has 496 rush attempts compared to 297 passes, or roughly 62 percent of its plays on offense.

The Bulls have two 1,000-yard rushers, Jaret Patterson (1,626 rushing yards) and Kevin Marks (1,008 yards), while the 49ers' top rushing duo, Benny LeMay (1,027 rushing yards) and quarterback Chris Reynolds (757 yards), each average more than five yards per attempt.

The two schools' points per game averages are only separated by 0.1 point with Charlotte at 31.6 points per game and Buffalo at 31.5, but don't be surprised if this game is played in the low-to-mid 20s due to run-heavy offenses that eat the clock and become risk-averse in a potentially windy venue.

In passing downs, give the edge to Charlotte, whose quarterback Chris Reynolds has thrown for a healthy 8.9 yards per attempt compared to Buffalo quarterback Kyle Vantrease at 7.2 yards/attempt, which suggests the 49ers take shots downfield and benefit from yards after the catch.

Charlotte's top three receivers all average roughly 15 yards or more per catch -- Victor Tucker at 17.3 yards per reception, Cameron Dollar at 14.9 and Tyler Ringwood at 16.5 -- and the 49ers have five players with at least 19 catches this season, compared to Buffalo with just three. Ringwood, who has scored five touchdowns on his 20 receptions this season, has some big-play potential, so don't overlook his 331 receiving yards on the season.

On the other sideline, Buffalo quarterback Vantrease has thrown just one interception in 155 pass attempts and he has been sacked just twice this season, so he provides Buffalo with a level of ball security.

Charlotte's defensive front could probably match Vantrease's sack total this season in this game thanks to the combination of defensive end Alex Highsmith (14 sacks) and linebacker Markees Watts (9.5 sacks). That's about as strong of a two-player sack total as you'll find.

Defensive back Marquavis Gibbs is the 49ers' tackle leader with 94 total tackles this season.

Buffalo's defensive players to watch are defensive ends Taylor Riggings (8.5 sacks), Malcolm Koonce (seven sacks) and Ledarius Mack (seven sacks), who will need to get pressure on Reynolds, especially if the wind isn't slowing down Charlotte's passing game.

The prediction: Buffalo 28, Charlotte 24

Charlotte vs. Buffalo: Bahamas Bowl time, TV channel

The 2019 Bahamas Bowl is at 2 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 20. It will be broadcast on ESPN and WatchESPN.

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