Preview: Alabama vs Chattanooga

Alabama makes bid for 11-0 start to season

By Dave Friedman
The biggest game on Saturday for the Chattanooga Mocs football team will take place in Alabama. However, it is not their match-up with the Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Mocs will have their eye on the score of Samford’s home game against Elon. Chattanooga (8-3, 6-2) blew a chance to clinch the Southern Conference championship last week falling at Samford in overtime. While the Mocs have clinched a share of their first league title since 1984, they need Elon to spring an upset to earn an automatic birth into the 24 team FCS Playoffs. Even if Samford beats the Phoenix, a good showing by Chattanooga against Alabama could score them points as they look for an at-large birth.

For the Crimson Tide, Senior Day should be an opportunity to pad some already gaudy stats. Alabama (10-0, 7-0) has yielded just 50 points over their last eight games and during that span limited opponents to 236 yards a contest. The Tide have given up an NCAA best 10.2 points a game this year and are seeking a third shutout. With Auburn looming next week, Tide coach Nick Saban is not looking past the Mocs.

“Chattanooga has a really good team,” said Saban. “They have been very successful in their division. I think Russ (Huesman) does a really good job of finding ways to get the most out of his players in terms of what they can do. His son at quarterback, Jacob, is a really good quarterback, whether he’s running or throwing it. They have a lot of quarterback runs and do a lot of multiples of things. They are very good defensively in terms of what they have been able to accomplish statistically this year. We are more concerned right now as to how we focus on the things that we need to do to improve, and we certainly have every respect for the opponent that we have this week.”

Jacob Huesman is fifth in FCS completing more than 68-percent of his throws, and has accounted for a SoCon high 25 touchdowns. Nine of his scores have come on the ground where Chattanooga has rushed for over 2,000 yards for the first time since 2005. Huesman has 894 rushing yards, and 1,637 through the air this year. The Mocs beat their third ever FBS opponent in September downing Georgia State 42-14. They are 4-113-3 all time against the SEC with their last win in 1958 against Tennessee. Russ Huesman has the utmost respect for the Crimson Tide.

“Alabama plays so hard and they are fundamentally sound,” said Huesman. “They have great players. If you put those three together, you have a chance to be elite. They are where they’re supposed to be and play hard. They are well coached and extremely athletic. They don’t give up points to just anybody. We have our work cut out for us.”

While internally Saban is making sure his team is prepared for the Mocs, and perhaps starting to game-plan for Auburn, he has made a point to emphasize how special a day Saturday will be for a group of his players.

“This game is senior day for a very, very successful class of seniors who have contributed a tremendous amount to the program here over the last four or five years, whatever their career spanned, in terms of their record, how they represented The University of Alabama, the football program and the success that they have had, and hopefully, we have had some success in contributing to their personal development, academic growth and ability to be successful in developing a career, as well as, helping them develop and improve as football players,” said Saban. “These are all things that we are hopeful that will help them be more successful in life. I do think that for our fans to get there a little early and show appreciation for what these guys have done here over the last four or five years would certainly mean a lot to our coaches, myself and the players and their families. We certainly thank you for that.”

The Tide are 49 point favorites. They beat Chattanooga 45-0 in 2009. Alabama is 11-0 all time against the Mocs with six shutouts. Harold “Red” Drew, Frank Thomas, and Bill Oliver all spent time coaching at both programs.