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Arth, Mocs Geared up for Gamecocks

By BJ Bennett
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A debut will soon be made, underlying a matchup of rivals that needs no introduction.

This weekend's season-opener stands as more than just a high-profile showcase for Southern Conference power Chattanooga, week one approaches as a meaningful measuring stick for the Mocs and new head coach Tom Arth, all on a primetime national stage. On Saturday night on ESPN, Chattanooga will play long-time rival Jacksonville State in the Guardian FCS Kickoff in Montgomery, Alabama. The Mocs have lost four straight to the Gamecocks, two games in overtime, contests all decided by one score.

The last meeting between the two was a postseason pairing: the 2015 FCS quarterfinals. It took bonus play to determine a victor. A series dating back to 1904, Chattanooga and Jacksonville State have played 40 times, the upcoming clash set to become the first-ever neutral site meeting between the two. In the pre-season polls, the Mocs and Gamecocks enter ranked as high as 12th and 5th, respectively.  

A recent national player, Chattanooga moves forward with Arth taking over for the successful Russ Huesman, now at Richmond. Previously the head coach at Division III John Carroll, Arth, who played quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts from 2003-2005, inherits a program that has made the FCS playoffs three years running. Arth will debut with the Mocs amidst high expectations, with consecutive games against Jacksonville State and LSU in Baton Rouge to kickoff the season.

"We've been focused on ourselves and the challenge that we have to be the best that we can be and live up to the standard every single day. That's enough for anyone to worry about, but now we are in to opponent prep work and anticipating what they are going to game plan against you," Arth told the media. 

Back for Chattanooga is veteran quarterback Alejandro Bennifield, who scored 32 total touchdowns as a junior. He is one of the nation's most dynamic signal callers and provides a strong foundational base offensively along with senior center Josh Cardiello, formerly of Georgia. Three-time first-team All-SoCon defensive back Lucas Webb and linebacker Dale Warren, who led the led with 19 tackles for loss this past fall, return to anchor the defense.

Arth has a strong roster to move forward with. He and the Mocs also have quite the challenge, and chance, awaiting. Though Chattanooga has controlled the all-time series, Jacksonville State has been a recent nemesis of the Mocs, an obstacle Chattanooga can overcome before the season even settles in.

"I love the fact that we are opening up against a top-five opponent. It's important for your program and development," Arth acknowledged. "There's only one way to see where you stack up against the top programs and that's by playing them. I'm fired up for the opportunity to do that in week one. We'll come out of that game knowing where we stand and where we need to improve in."

A debut will soon be made, underlying a matchup of rivals that needs no introduction. The next chapter in a captivating story of a pair of familiar foes will soon be written; the Mocs are working towards a new finish.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports