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Game Preview: Chattanooga Mocs at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (via Crimson Magazine)

17 Nov 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: November 17, 2016

It is not likely that this weekend's game for the No. 1 University of Alabama football team against the Chattanooga Mocs of the Football Championship Subdivision will register high marks on the excitement and anticipation scale for Crimson Tide fans, especially with a showdown against archrival Auburn, looming.
But Saturday's contest in Bryant-Denny Stadium (6 p.m. CT, ESPN2) against Russ Huesman's 8-2 Mocs is important for a couple of reasons, nevertheless for Nick Saban's top-ranked and 10-0 UA squad.
The contest essentially marks the final opportunity for Alabama to simply polish up some critical areas of its game, such as kickoff coverage, consistency with the running game and continued work on the vertical passing game.
If the game goes according to script, it should also allow many Crimson Tide players to see game action, as well as allowing Saban and his staff to rest his starters quite a bit before a closing stretch of the season that includes next week's Iron Bowl game, the Southeastern Conference title game against Florida or Tennessee and perhaps upcoming College Football Playoff games as well.
Saban himself would find such talk as an annoyance at best as his main priority, of course, for every game is for his players to show great respect for the opponent, to play to a certain standard, to treat each down like its the most important one and to win.
He made that point clear earlier this week when he noted that his players need to concentrate not only on a talented Chattanooga team that was ranked No. 7 in the FCS prior to falling at home to Wofford last week, but itself as well.
"We need each unit on the team, each group on the team, each individual on the team to take ownership and be responsible for the things they need to do to work this week and improve as a team," said Saban. ""Chattanooga is a very well-coached team and (Huesman) has done a really good job there. They're 8-2 and one of the top teams in their division. They have 14 starters returning from last year's team. They basically do a really good job on offense with the quarterback run-type stuff, and their play action game which is difficult to defend. They really play hard on defense and special teams and this is a game that we need to focus on what we need to do technically to get better as a team and try to go out and play our best game and build on what we did in the last game."

The Mocs enter Saturday's game ranked second in the Southern Conference and No. 15 in the FCS in scoring offense, tallying around 36 points per contest.
One of the key leaders of that offense is senior running back Derrick Craine, who had a 222-yard effort against Samford earlier in the season. He has 772 yards on the season and nine touchdowns. He averages around 97 yards rushing per game.  Junior Richardre Bagley is second on the team in rushing with 508 yards and five scores.
Junior quarterback Alejandro Bennifield has the sixth-best passing efficiency rating in the nation on the FCS level, and overall he has thrown for 2,067 yards, along with 23 TDs and seven picks.  He also has 257 yards rushing and five TDs.
Leading the receiving corps for the Mocs is senior Xavier Borishade, who has 36 receptions for 606 yards and seven scores. Senior C.J. Board is second with 35 catches for 514 yards and five touchdowns.
The Chattanooga defense is ranked No. 5 in the nation on the FCS level, allowing just over 276 yards per game and just under 17 points a contest.
The Mocs also only surrender 139 yards per game through the air.
That stop unit is led by senior mike linebacker Nakevion Leslie, who leads Huesman's team with 88 tackles, while junior sam linebacker Dale Warren has added 77 and sophomore dime Montrell Purdue 58.  Warren has totaled 14 tackles for loss while senior left end Vantrel McMillan has 11.5.
Senior right end Keionta Davis leads the team with eight sacks while Warren and McMillan have five apiece.
Junior cornerback Trevor Wright leads Chattanooga with two interceptions.
Senior Henrique Ribeiro has converted seven of his nine field goal attempts, with a long make of 52 yards while redshirt freshman Colin Brewer has punted 25 times for an average of 43.9 yards with a long boot of 60 yards.
As with all games for Saban's team, even games such as this one where Alabama is a prohibitive favorite, the opponent should be respected, but that all starts with how Alabama represents itself and the way it performs to its own lofty standards.
The Mocs are a very talented team on its level, and Chattanooga has numerous weapons to account for, but Alabama needs to focus largely on continuing to get itself better, and there are numerous areas that are still a work in progress for UA, including stretching the field vertically with the passing game and consistently getting the ball more to weapons such as Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart,  continuing to be more steady and aggressive in its offensive line play and the ground game and the UA defense getting off the field more consistently on third down plays by the opposition.

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