SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - There is no question the Utah-BYU rivalry has changed. No longer are the Utes and Cougars conference opponents, and no longer is it the final game of the season.
So does that mean the intensity of the rivalry has been diminished?
"It's still one of our goals every year, that we don't lose to BYU," said Utah tight end Westlee Tonga. "That's our mantra and we want to continue that."
"I really don't know how to describe it," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It has changed, but it's certainly still a rivalry and I still think the game matters."
"It's definitely changing," said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. "Right now, it feels very similar and not much different than it ever has."
"It's gotten kind of nasty," said BYU linbacker Brandon Ogletree. "But that kind of makes it fun for us as players. Obviously, we're not going to back down from anyone."
"It's intense," said BYU running back David Foote. "Emotions are high."
While emotions may be high at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday night, both teams agree that they can't let those emotions get the best of them.
"It is a big game, but we just can't make it bigger than it is," said BYU quarterback Riley Nelson. "That's going to be the challenge for us, to be able to stay cool, calm and collected and play our game in a hostile environment."
Just a few years ago, that hostility was at an all-time high. From Max Hall saying, "I don't like Utah, in fact I hate them. I hate everything about them," to Kyle Whittingham's wife getting attacked, the anger from the rivalry was boiling over. Both Whittingham and Bronco Mendenhall have made pleas to the fans to take it down a notch.
"So far this year is a step in the right direction," said Mendenhall. "It just seems like it's more about actually playing the game now rather than all the stuff that leads up to it."
"The game itself gets their attention," said Whittingham. "There's not much you need to do as a coach from an emotional standpoint to get their engines revved up."
But the Cougars know they shouldn't expect a warm welcome when they walk into Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"I love it," said Ogletree. "I love their atmosphere, I love their fans, how hostile it is when we go up there and how much hatred their is in the stadium. It definitely gets your blood pumping and it's a lot of fun for us. I love it."
You just get the feeling that love isn't exactly reciprocated.
Kickoff is set for 8:15 Saturday night.