For the fourth time in as many seasons, compared to once in the eight that preceded it, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is playing high-stakes football games in late October and November.
"There's still a lot of football to be played," UTC coach Russ Huesman said.
The Mocs (4-4, 3-2 Southern Conference) had their league title and FCS playoffs chances take a major hit last Saturday in their 39-31 triple-overtime loss to Georgia Southern, which moved up one spot Monday to No. 1 in the coaches' poll.
"You almost have to have a little confidence, saying, 'Hey, we played the No. 1 team in the country and at times we had them beat,'" Mocs linebacker Gunner Miller said. "They're a really good team and I think we're a really good team. We've just got to play the rest of the teams like we played them."
UTC plays at Western Carolina (1-8, 0-7) on Saturday and can still finish 6-2 in the SoCon by winning its final three games (WCU, No. 7 Wofford and Elon). And if No. 14 Appalachian State wins at Georgia Southern on Saturday, there's a chance for a four-way tie for first place in the league -- with GSU, UTC, Wofford and App State each finishing 6-2.
The Mocs can also post their third winning season in four years, which hasn't happened since the 1980s.
As for their playoff chances, they appear out of the automatic-bid race, and the best they can do now is finish with six Division I wins. According to the NCAA Division I Championship manual, the "won-lost record of a team will be scrutinized to determine a team's strength of schedule; however, less than seven Division I wins may place a team in jeopardy of not being selected."
The word "may" is in bold in the document. UTC played Division II Glenville State in September -- the win doesn't count toward the seven-victory mark -- because Division I Presbyterian had to back out of its visit to UTC due to a schedule conflict.
"We have those goals we strive for all season long," Miller said. "That's what we work for in the offseason and it's in the back of our head, that we've got to win these games."
On Monday, the league announced that Mocs quarterback Jacob Huesman was named the SoCon freshman of the week. It's the second award for him in three weeks.
The redshirt freshman had 170 yards rushing and ran for two touchdowns while completing 11 of 20 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Huesman has 597 yards rushing and 1,141 passing, with 10 passing touchdowns and only three interceptions in 177 attempts.
"He's playing good," his father/coach said. "We've got a lot of guys on the team like him, that compete."
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.