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Charlotte vs. Buffalo: Bahamas Bowl preview and picks against the spread

Charlotte (7-5) vs. Buffalo (7-5)

Location: Nassau, Bahamas | When: Dec. 20 (2 p.m. ET) | TV: ESPN | Line: Buffalo -6.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Charlotte: Let’s start from the beginning of Charlotte’s history at the top level of college football. Don’t worry, it won’t take long. The 49ers started football in 2015 and jumped into Conference USA. After the team went 12-36 in its first four years it parted ways with Brad Lambert and hired Will Healy from Austin Peay. 

Now Charlotte is in a bowl game. In the Bahamas too. It took some work to get here as well. The 49ers started the season 2-5. But the schedule was front-loaded and a 39-38 win over North Texas spurred a five-game win streak for bowl eligibility.

Buffalo: The Bulls started the season like Charlotte. The first half of the season included just two wins as Buffalo started the MAC season off with losses to Miami (Ohio) and Ohio. The second half of the season had just one loss — a 30-27 defeat at Kent State — and the Bulls won their final two games of the season to ensure a winning record.

Can Ben LeMay lead Charlotte to a win in the school's first bowl game appearance? (Photo by David Blair/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

It’s the Friday before Christmas. It’s the first game of bowl season. The game is in the Bahamas. What else would you rather be doing outside of actually being in the Bahamas and at the game? Bahamania kicking off bowl mania is perfect.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte RB Ben LeMay: LeMay averages a nice 5.7 yards a carry and has formed a potent rushing attack with QB Chris Reynolds. LeMay has 1,027 yards rushing, 242 receiving yards and also has 13 touchdowns. Charlotte averages nearly as many yards on the ground as it does through the air and runs the ball 41 times a game. Expect to see LeMay carry the ball quite a bit.

Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson: The Bulls run the ball more than Charlotte does. Patterson teamed with Kevin Marks to give Buffalo two 1,000-yard rushers. Patterson was the more prolific of the two with 280 carries for 1626 yards and 17 touchdowns. Throw in his 209 receiving yards, and 166 combined rushing and receiving yards on Friday will put Patterson over 2,000 yards from scrimmage for the season. 

Jaret Patterson could top 2,000 yards from scrimmage with a big game against Charlotte on Friday. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Charlotte EDGE Alex Highsmith: It might be easy to suggest that Highsmith racked up his 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss against the likes of Gardner-Webb and Massachusetts. But one of the 6-4, 242-pound rusher’s most impressive games this season came against Clemson when he beat left tackle Jackson Carman for a sack and played well throughout. Highsmith is a self-made prospect who is smart, athletic and tough. Don’t be shocked if he ends up a top-75 selection.

— Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Charlotte: It’s pretty simple and straightforward for the 49ers. It’d be a win in the program’s first bowl game and an eight-win season in Year 5 of the program’s existence. Even if a win doesn’t happen, a 7-6 season for a nascent football team is nothing to sneeze at.

Buffalo: The Bulls are making a fourth bowl appearance while still looking for win No. 1. It’s the first time Buffalo has been to bowl games in back-to-back seasons and a win would give Buffalo just its fourth season with eight or more wins. 

PICKS

Sam Cooper: Charlotte +6.5

Nick Bromberg: Buffalo -6.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Buffalo -6.5

Pete Thamel: Charlotte +6.5

Dan Wetzel: Buffalo -6.5

Sean Sullivan: Charlotte +6.5

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