The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team eased into the 2016 season with easy, one-sided victories against overmatched opponents.
This year's schedule is different.
The Football Championship Subdivision 14th-ranked Mocs will continue their tough early-season schedule this weekend, traveling to LSU to face the Football Bowl Subdivision 12th-ranked Tigers at 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday.
It will be the first home game of the Ed Orgeron era as LSU's official head coach. He was the interim coach for the final eight games of the 2016 season, compiling a 6-2 record.
For the Mocs, it's another opportunity to find out some of their strengths as well as ways they need to get better. Some of that was exposed in a 27-13 loss to FCS fifth-ranked Jacksonville State on Aug. 26, and the expectation is that a Tigers team that defeated BYU 27-0 in its season opener and didn't allow the Cougars offense to cross midfield will do more exposing.
It's a far cry from last season, when the Mocs' first two games were against relatively new NCAA Division II member Shorter and Big South foe Presbyterian — teams UTC defeated a combined 100-0.
"It's a privilege to play college football," UTC coach Tom Arth said Tuesday. "It's a privilege to represent a school like UTC. The opportunities we have in front of us, including me being the head coach at Chattanooga, are privileges we never take for granted. It doesn't matter if we are playing LSU or anyone else in the country, it's important that we are very grateful for the opportunities we have."
The Mocs have represented the school well in their last two games against FBS opponents, holding first-quarter leads against Florida State and Alabama. Those teams both had stout defenses and outstanding skill-position players surrounding average quarterbacks. The Tigers will be similar in that regard, with the stifling defense and junior running back Derrius Guice helping LSU signal-caller Danny Etling.
But Arth has preached a lot about his team focusing on itself, and despite the challenge in front of them the Mocs primarily are doing what they can do to prepare themselves for a challenging Southern Conference schedule that will begin in two weeks.
"I like this year's schedule better than last," senior center Josh Cardiello said. "Now we get to see where we stack up and where we need to improve on. I don't want to play a small school, win 70-0 and you don't know where to improve because you're still winning.
"We get to see where our deficiencies are."
The athletic department announced Tuesday the first two musical acts of the Mocs Block Tailgate Series, with the artists performing free concerts 90 minutes prior to kickoff of UTC home games.
Walker Hayes, a country music singer, will perform before the UT-Martin game on Sept. 16. His new single, "You Broke Up With Me," has sold more than 70,000 copies and has over 11 million streams. Chord Overstreet, a former actor on "Glee," will sing before the Western Carolina game on Sept. 30. He performed his hit single, "Hold On," on "The Tonight Show" in August.
Acts for the final three games will be announced later.
The Mocs Block is a partnership with UTC Athletics, Finley Stadium, Southside Social, iHeart Media and EPB that starts on Chestnut Street on game days.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.