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UTC running back Derrick Craine breaks away from Samford defensive back Jamond Glass for a touchdown during the Mocs' win in the SoCon matchup in late September at Finley Stadium. UTC is there again today for a first-round playoff game against Weber State.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program has been here before.

Although the same could be said for Weber State, it's been a while since the Wildcats have taken part in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The Mocs hope that is an advantage today.

UTC (8-3) will host the Wildcats (7-4) in a first-round game at 2 p.m. at Finley Stadium. It will be the Mocs' third consecutive appearance in the 24-team postseason bracket, while the last time Weber State made the field (2009), only 16 teams were selected.

Knowing the level of preparation required for the playoffs seems to be a key difference between teams that have been there before and those that haven't. Because this is the second consecutive year the Mocs have not had a first-round bye, it's also the second straight season they have practiced Thanksgiving week with a game the following Saturday.

It may not be a definitive difference, but UTC coach Russ Huesman said "it probably helps."

"Our coaches have been through this," he said. "They know how to prepare. We've been through a Thanksgiving week. We know how to set up. Weber State probably hasn't — not with this group — but ultimately it's who's got the best players is going to win it."

It helps that UTC's players have been through this as well. The only offensive player in the rotation without experience in the playoff setting is redshirt freshman offensive lineman Malcolm White, and defensive tackle Derek Mahaffey is the only new face for the defense.

Offensive lineman Josh Cardiello said that with so many players who have been through playoff rigors before, older team members can mentor younger ones through any concerns.

"We know the mindset, the attitude of going into the playoffs," defensive end Keionta Davis said. "This could be your last game. We have that experience and know how to approach the game a little better."

The Mocs have won at least one playoff game each of the past two seasons, with narrow losses in the quarterfinals in 2014 and the second round in 2015, so they know the pain of losing in late November and early December.

They're not ready for that feeling anytime soon.

"It's not our first time going to the playoffs, so we kind of know what's at stake," running back Derrick Craine said. "It's win or go home. This week we've got Weber State, and we'll try to get this win to move on to round two."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.

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