SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The circus is coming to town this weekend.
ESPN’s popular College GameDay show is coming to the University of Utah for the fifth time ahead of #13 Utah’s monstrous showdown against #8 Oregon Saturday afternoon.
“College GameDay coming, that will be an exciting thing for the university, the community,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “I think 2016 was the last time we had that here, so it’s been awhile, but it’s great to get that crew back on campus.”
This is the first time in seven years College GameDay has come to Utah, and the first for every Utah player.
“I’m really excited for it,” said tight end Landon King. “I grew up watching the show, so it’s going to be fun having them here.”
While the show is on campus, there will be plenty going on. That will mean the Utes will be taken out of their normal preparation mode, but Whittingham says they’ll do their best to manage all the distractions and embrace the publicity.
“First of all, we try to keep the players in as normal of a routine and not break that,” he said. “There’s going to be a guy or two that has a little bit extra on his plate, but it’s great for the team knowing that we’re the center of the college football universe this week.”
While Utah fans are certainly excited that the eyes of the college football world will be focused on the Utes, the players say they won’t be distracted by all the noise.
“It’s not really our focus,” said quarterback Bryson Barnes. “It’s great that they’re here, but it won’t affect how we get ready for Oregon.”
“It’s a positive thing for them and a reward of sorts, I guess you could say,” Whittingham said. “For the community it’s awesome. For the university, it brings exposure to our brand and the university and community in general, so I think it’s a win all across the board. I’ll obviously have a heavier load and some things I’ve got to do that are not a typical week, but try to have the players and the assistant coaches just block everything, block out the noise and just go about their routine.”
Utah’s routine will be made a little easier knowing that quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe will not be playing this season. It had been an on-going question, but now they have both been shut down for the year.
“We certainly wish they could have been with us,” Whittingham said. “They’re really good players, two guys that really add to what we’re doing and two of the best players in the Pac-12. But the uncertainly, I don’t want to say it was a distraction, but things seem to be settled now, more of a settled feeling. Knowing now going forward that they’re not going to be available helps us operate and plan in a little different way.”
For Barnes, who led Utah to a thrilling victory over USC last Saturday, he says his preparation won’t change.
“I’ve been preparing for weeks like I was going to be the starter anyway,” Barnes said. “So it’s not much a difference for me.”
Utah and Oregon will kick off at 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where Utah has won 18 games in a row.