SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - The game everybody circled when the football schedule first came out has lost some of its luster, but it is still Utah against USC.
After the Trojans, who were ranked #1 in the nation at one point, lost to Stanford and the Utes dropped games to Utah State and Arizona State, this game became a little less momentous than many people thought. But it is still way to early to write either team off.
"I hope not," said Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham. "We've only had one conference game ourselves, and I don't think you can ever write USC off. They've got so much talent, that could never be the case. They're talented at every position. There is no position where they have any weakness."
That's why Whittingham was a little shocked that the 13th-ranked Trojans got physically out-worked against Stanford.
"It was surprising," he said. "I didn't think anybody could do that to USC. They really dominated the front."
But that loss doesn't mean USC is especially vulnerable.
"With a team like that, you know they can bounce back anytime," said Utes center Tevita Stevens. "By now, that's probably not a concern for them coming into this game. So, we're going to get their best shot."
The Utes say they will not be intimated by the Trojans, especially since they almost beat them last year. If not for Coleman Petersen's field goal attempt being blocked on the final play of the game, the Utes could have beaten USC in the Coliseum.
"I think last year was more of a thing where the mystique was a little bigger," admitted quarterback Jon Hays. "Coming back this year, it's the second time we've played them. We know we can play with anybody in the nation if we go out and execute and don't make mistakes."
The Utes made way too many of those in last week's 37-7 loss at Arizona State. They know if they play like that Thursday, the score could be much worse.
"I've got to be the spark of the team," said running back John White, who fumbled twice against the Sun Devils. "For me to put the ball on the floor twice, that's not good. We should be better than what we've shown."
"I know they're not happy with the way they played last week," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin. "But when SC comes to town, it's always going to be everybody's biggest game of the year, if not the biggest game in their stadium."
"We've definitely had this one circled," said Hays. "So, we have to go out and have a good showing and show what this team is capable of."
This will be the first time in 95 years that USC has played Utah in Salt Lake City. Kickoff is set for 7:00 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.