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Opponent Preview: Alabama vs UT-Chattanooga

It’s Senior Day for Alabama, and the Mocs are coming to town

NCAA Football: Chattanooga at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

As a long-term member of the FCS Southern Conference, the Chattanooga Mocs have been a consistent staple in the south east as a good-but-not-great player at the FCS level. Head coach Rusty Wright is in his 5th season as a first time head coach, and has placed 3rd in the conference in each of his first four years. With Furman having locked up the conference this year with a 17-14 win over the Mocs, Chattanooga will likely finish 2nd or 3rd again.

Offensively, the Mocs are scoring 32 points per game, mostly on the back of a very strong downfield passing game. QB Chase Artopoeus is a grad transfer from UCLA who’s come in and really taken charge of the team after being a backup his entire career in the Pac 12. He’s completed 63% of his passes at 9 yards per attempt and 30 attempts per game. He’s got 20 TDs to go with 7 picks. Artopoeus is a sharp player who’s always looking to go downfield and also has enough rushing ability to keep defenses honest.

At receiver, Jamoi Mayes leads the team with 924 receiving yards. He was an All-SoCon player last year, and has only improved entering into his 3rd season. At 5’11” 202, he’s built more like a running back than a wide receiver, and he’s very, very good after the catch. On the other side, former Freshman All-American Javin Whatley is a small, speedy deep threat who’s racked up 800 yards and 8 touchdowns on only 44 catches. The group is rounded out by Sam Phillips another former Freshman All-American who’s typically used as a slot guy on more underneath routes. Phillips has 50 catches, but only 520 yards to show for it.

The Moc’s rushing game has been less impressive. Ailym Ford was an All-American last year and has three 1000 yard seasons under his belt. However, he was only averaging 4.1 yards per carry through the first 7 games of this season before an ACL surgery effectively ended his college career. In his place, senior Gino Appleberry has 544 yards on 124 rushes. Not bad... but nothing special either. This offense goes through the passing game.

Defensively, the Mocs are only giving up 20 points per game. They’re holding their opponents under 200 passing yards per game at a paltry 6.8 yards per attempt. Edge rusher Jay Person is the star of the show as an All-American and SoCon defensive player of the year last season. He’s already gotten 7.5 sacks and 15 total tackles for loss this season, with most of that coming in the last four weeks. Person is one of those speedy, undersized edge rushers that I fear will give Alabama’s behemoth tackles fits on passing downs.

He’s bookended by the similarly sized Ben Brewton (9 TFL, 7 sacks), and Marlon Taylor is the massive, yet active, nose tackle that makes everything go (also with 7 tackles for 322 pounds).

In the secondary, Kam Brown (from Theodore, AL) was also a 1st team All-American last season after racking up 6 interceptions, and he’s continued his excellent play at corner, leading the team in picks.

Finally, sophomore linebacker Alex Mitchell was another All-Freshman performer last year who’s moved into a leadership role already and leads the team with 58 tackles.

Overall, the Mocs have leadership at all three levels of the defense and a very dangerous edge-rushing duo. They’re a little small and can run on, but their passing defense is one of the better units in all of FCS.

Ultimately, this is one of those FCS games at the end of the season that Alabama likes to schedule ahead of the Iron Bowl. Chattanooga played in this very game back in 2016, though they gave the Tide a bit of a headache for the first few quarters and kept the score low.

This time around, I can’t see their offense having much success on Alabama’s defense. Their strengths - the two outside receivers- play right into Alabama’s defensive strength in Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold, and their run game will be very little threat to the Tide.

On defense, I could see their edge rushers getting a few more sacks than we want to see, but Alabama will likely just run the ball on their undersized edges all game long.

With the Tide not playing an FBS opponent, this game doesn’t have a betting line from Draftkings, but you can check out their sportsbook here for all of the lines for the rest of the day, and check out Erik’s guide while you’re at it.

The game will be at 11:00 a.m. C.T. in Tuscaloosa, and will be a streaming-only game (not broadcast on cable). It will be available on SEC Network + or ESPN+.

Roll Tide!