The Citadel has won just two of seven football games this season. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga doesn't care.
What coach Russ Huesman and the Mocs see when they look at the Bulldogs isn't a preseason Southern Conference title contender that has gotten off to a rough start, going 2-5 overall and 2-3 in SoCon play. They see trouble; they see a stiff challenge Saturday at Finley Stadium.
"Yeah, they're real good," Huesman said. "They're the best 2-5 team in the country, bar none. They're dangerous, well coached and they could very easily be better, record-wise, than they are."
The Citadel, which upset Appalachian State and Georgia Southern during its 7-4 season in 2012, began 2013 with a shocking 32-29 home loss to Charleston Southern. The loss looked bad at the time, but the Bucs, now ranked No. 24 in the coaches' poll, are 7-1, with the only loss coming at Colorado.
Then came a 21-10 loss to Wofford, which is 4-0 in SoCon play and ranked No. 11. The Citadel beat Western Carolina and then lost in perhaps the most entertaining game of the season, 59-58 at Old Dominion, which made the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs last season.
"They lost that game by this much," Huesman said, holding his hands less than an inch apart. The Bulldogs tried for the win late against ODU with a two-point conversion but came up a tiny bit short of the goal line.
In their past three games, the Bulldogs have lost by seven against Furman, edged Appalachian State in overtime and lost at Georgia Southern by seven.
"They're a team that could easily be 6-1," Mocs safety D.J. Key said. "We know they're a good team no matter what their record is."
UTC (5-2, 3-1) will be facing its second triple-option team of the season. The Mocs lost 23-21 at Georgia Southern on Sept. 28, allowing 376 yards - all on the ground.
The Citadel is averaging 267 yards rushing per game and has added some passes, with mixed results, to its system. The Bulldogs have attempted 105 passes already this season after throwing 117 last season.
Off last week, the Bulldogs have had time to do some regrouping and to work on themselves leading up to Saturday's game.
"I think for us it's more about getting our guys to execute better in all three phases," Bulldogs coach Kevin Higgins said Tuesday. "Offensively, it's about finishing blocks and completing play-action passes. Defensively, it's about wrapping up and getting your feet in the proper position.
"I really do believe our kids are excited about playing. ... They're disappointed that we haven't won more games at this point in time, but they know and we've shared with them that you can't control that from the past."
While The Citadel will try to kickstart the second half of its season, UTC will be looking to keep pace in the SoCon title race. The Mocs at 3-1 in the league are chasing Wofford (5-2, 4-0) and Samford (5-2, 3-0), who play Saturday in Spartanburg, S.C.
In a push to get more students wearing UTC gear and less featuring other schools in and out of the SoCon, a "swag swap" will take place at Heritage Plaza today starting at 11:30 a.m. ... Prior to Saturday's 2 p.m. game, the UTC wrestling team will conduct its Blue & Gold Match in the First Tennessee Pavilion.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.