CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Russ Huesman was happy to welcome the newest addition to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football office Tuesday.
However, as shiny and new and beautiful as the Southern Conference Championship trophy was, it didn't completely erase the head coach's regrets from Saturday's gut-wrenching loss to Samford.
"It's just kind of all right," Huesman shrugged when asked about carrying the trophy around McKenzie Arena. "You still think about the what-if's. One of our goals is to be in the playoffs, and if we'd have won that game we'd be in."
The Mocs can still get into the postseason, in fact, they can still win the outright SoCon title that Samford denied them.
However, they'll need a little help not only from opposing SoCon teams, but also possibly from the FCS playoff selection committee.
"There's so many variables out there, I'm trying to not ever pay much attention to it," said defensive lineman Josh Freeman.
The easiest scenario is Samford (against Elon) and Furman (against Wofford) both losing this weekend, which will give UTC the outright title and the league's automatic playoff bid.
However, a variety of other options will require the Mocs to receive an at-large bid into the 24-team bracket, which will be tougher than usual this year for SoCon teams.
The league has had three teams (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Wofford) in the playoffs in all but one year since Huesman returned to UTC, but early-season non-conference losses have resulted in a low RPI that is damagingly the league's at-large hopes.
"Everybody thinks the Southern Conference stinks this year. That's the perception out there," Huesman said. "Just because App State has three wins and Georgia Southern has six wins, all of the sudden the conference stinks.
"I don't think that's right."
Fortunately for the Mocs, they have a distraction from that playoff chatter this week.
Unfortunately for the Mocs, that challenge is two-time Football Bowl Subdivision national champ and top-ranked Alabama.
"I don't know how you could focus on anything else with such a team to play," Freeman said. "Our focus is 100-percent Alabama, without a doubt."
Huesman expects going against the unbeaten Crimson Tide will eliminate any trouble his team could have bouncing back from the loss at Samford.
He expects the Mocs to be focused and competitive in Saturday's 2 p.m. ET kickoff in Tuscaloosa, though he knows their focus will change as soon as the final whistle sounds.
"(The playoff thoughts) will creeps up a little bit," said offensive lineman Brandon Morgan. "I mean, we're going to want to see what the score is of the other games while we're in Alabama.
"But right now, we just need to focus on Alabama because that's the task at hand."
Jacob Huesman expected to play despite missing practice
Dual-threat quarterback Jacob Huesman did not practice Tuesday while battling a lingering knee injury that limited his mobility in Saturday's loss to the Bulldogs.
Russ Huesman said it was the training staff's decision to rest the sophomore signal caller, though the Baylor School grad is still expected to start against the top-ranked Tide.
Huesman said he will not treat injuries any differently this week despite the possibility of playoffs looming after a visit to a powerful FBS foe.
"There's not one of these guys that doesn't want to line up and play," Huesman said. "For us to say, 'We're not going to play you this week. We're going to save you for next week,' we'd have a mutiny on our hands.
"It's unacceptable to those guys not to be able to play. So if you can play, then you'll play as long as you're effective."