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Playin’ Nice: Chattanooga University Echo

We get some scoop on LSU’s home opener from Chris King of the Chattanooga University Echo.

NCAA Football: Chattanooga at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

1. We're not going to pretend to know much about Chattanooga — what can you tell us about the Mocs as a program?

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program has been a member of the Southern Conference since 1976. UTC had its ups and downs in the early 2000s as the Mocs went 29-73 from 2000-2008. Russ Huesman was hired as head coach in December of 2008. Huesman led UTC to its first SoCon Championship since 1984 and just the fifth in school history in 2013. Huesman then followed with SoCon Championships in 2014 and 2015. Huesman tallied a record of 59-37 at UTC before leaving after the 2016 season for Richmond. UTC made it to the FCS Playoff in 2014, 2015 and 2016 under Huesman. Following the departure of Huesman, Tom Arth was hired as head coach in December of 2016. Arth formerly spent four seasons at his alma mater John Carroll University. Arth posted a 40-8 career record at John Carroll and was named the 2016 Division III National Coach of the Year. Arth also spent time in the NFL as a quarterback in 2003. UTC is coming off a 27-13 loss to Jacksonville State in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff on August, 26. The Mocs are currently ranked No. 14 in the FCS Coaches poll.

2. How about the offense? What style and scheme to the Mocs run and which players should LSU fans be aware of?

On offense, the Mocs run a pro-style scheme which is new from last year. UTC used to run a spread style offense under coach Huesman. Sophomore quarterback Nick Tiano, who transferred from Mississippi State in the spring, will start at quarterback for the Mocs. Senior running backs Richardre Bagley and Darrell Bridges will both see action in the backfield. Wyoming transfer Joe Parker and seniors Alphonso Stewart and James Stovall will lead the receivers for the Mocs. Senior Josh Cardiello is the leader on a young offensive line.

3. How about on defense?

Defensively, the Mocs run a 3-4 defense which is also a new scheme from last year. The Mocs used to run a 4-2-5 defensive scheme under coach Huesman. UTC is led by junior Isaiah Mack and senior Taylor Reynolds on the defensive line. Two former safeties lead the Mocs at linebacker. Tae Davis and Tavon Lawson combined for 22 tackles in the loss to Jacksonville State. Senior Lucas Webb and Arizona State transfer Kareem Orr are the two leaders in the secondary. Webb and Orr each recorded an interception against Jacksonville State.

4. Some FCS programs have pulled shockers in these paycheck games. What's the feeling on Chattanooga coming to Baton Rouge here? Excited and confident or just looking to get a check and stay healthy?

I personally look at major FBS vs FCS games as an opportunity to get better and showcase your school to a bigger audience. I would love to see UTC compete and make a game out of the matchup against LSU. Realistically, I just want to see improvement from the loss two weeks ago and maybe the Mocs can make a game of it.

I think there are two major positives from playing in Baton Rouge:

  1. Chattanooga gets a chance to play against an SEC powerhouse and play in Tiger Stadium.
  2. UTC gets paid $500,000 to come play and get a chance to beat LSU.

I would say I am excited about the game and getting money for the program is just a plus. Last season, UTC traveled to No. 1 Alabama in November and only lost 31-3 after only trailing 14-3 at halftime. There were four FBS-FCS upsets in week one, so anything is possible.

5. Best guess on how this game plays out?

My pick: LSU 35 UTC 7

Chris is the Echo’s sports editor. Give him a follow on twitter at @chris_king64.