SALT LAKE CITY — National attention is growing for the undefeated Utah Utes.
On a day when ESPN's "College Football GameDay" announced it was coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium for Saturday's showdown with fourth-ranked TCU, the Utes climbed to No. 5 in the Bowl Championship Series standings and No. 6 in the USA Today coaches polls.
The accolades follow Utah's 28-23 win at Air Force on Saturday. The Utes are now 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Mountain West Conference play.
"Dreams are starting to come true," defensive end Christian Cox said as he walked off the field in Colorado. "So I love it. A special season continues."
The next hurdle, though, is a big one. The Horned Frogs, who have hopped up to No. 3 in the BCS standings, are 9-0 and coming off a 48-6 victory over UNLV.
"This week is going to be intense," said offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom. "Everything on my mind is purple right now."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who has strictly adhered to a one-game-at-a-time approach, acknowledged the focus and attention is now on the immediate task at hand.
"We are going to get right into TCU and get working on the Horned Frogs," he said while noting they are a great team that has shown no weaknesses this year.
Preparation, he added, won't include a review of Utah's tight battle with Air Force and its triple-option attack.
"We are not even going to watch this tape," Whittingham explained. "This tape is irrelevant, particularly on the defensive side of the ball."
Whittingham said he felt a little frustrated after the Utes allowed the Falcons to climb back into contention despite taking a 28-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
"When we have a chance to put an opponent away we need to do so. We didn't get that done. But the bottom line is when you're playing Air Force you'll take a win in any way, shape or form that it comes," he noted. "I told the players that exact thing. I was very proud of them. They hung in there. It wasn't perfect. It never is. But we're 8-0. Bottom line."
Now comes the biggest test of the season—the highest pairing of ranked teams ever scheduled for Salt Lake City.
Hype could be at an all-time high. The Utes, though, vow not to get caught up in all the excitement.
"We do a great job of narrowing in, honing in, our focus and putting it all into one game," said center Zane Taylor. "We don't let outside distractions disturb us. I think that's a big part of what has contributed to our success this year."
Utah is 8-0 for the third time in seven years. The other two (2004 and 2008) resulted in BCS bowl appearances and undefeated seasons.
The Utes are one of just five teams in the nation — joining Auburn, Boise State, Oregon and TCU — to avoid a loss, thus far. Michigan State and Missouri fell from the ranks with losses Saturday.
"We saw the scores and we knew everything's in place for us," said wide receiver Jereme Brooks. "If we keep winning and take care of our business, we know there's good things at the end of the tunnel."
First things first, however.
Next up: The Frogs.
"TCU's been in the back of our minds all season. We take it one game at a time and it's finally here," said safety Brian Blechen. "Starting now it's all TCU and I'm excited for this week."
No. 4 TCU (9-0) vs. No. 6 Utah (8-0)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV: CBS C
Radio: 700 AM
ESPN "College Football GameDay"
Rice-Eccles Stadium west parking lot
Friday43 comments on this story
10 a.m.-noon: Segments for various shows
7-10 a.m.: Live broadcast