Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson knows a thing or two about playing TCU at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
In 2008, he led the Utes to a dramatic 13-10 victory over the Horned Frogs. Johnson completed 7-of-9 passes in a late drive that ended with a touchdown toss to Freddie Brown in the game's final minute.
"Anytime you play these guys, you can expect it to be a physical battle. These guys are going to bring it," Johnson said. "They have great players. We have great players and it's comforting to know that we're playing at home. We'll have a great crowd behind us, so we've just got to go out there and play well."
The stakes are high with national and conference implications on the line.
"The focus now is trying to win this football game," Johnson said. "I think everybody understands the magnitude of the situation that we are in."
As such, the Utes are expecting quite a tussle.
"Those guys are going to play extremely hard and they're excited for this game just like we are," Johnson said. "So this week is all about who wants it more. It's two very talented teams coming in and it's going to be a battle."
PEAK PERFORMANCE: The Utes haven't exactly been jumping around with enthusiasm in practice this week. They've taken more of a business-like approach.
"You want to channel your emotion. We don't play today, we don't play tomorrow, We play Saturday. You want to peak on game day," said Whittingham, who has been pleased with the recent practices. "You don't want to blow all your emotion and energy during the course of the week. You want to focus. You want to work hard. You want to get your assignments down and then peak on Saturday. That's the ideal situation."
IS J.J. OK?: Linebacker J.J. Williams, a projected starter who hasn't played this season because of a foot injury, may see action on Saturday. Then again, maybe he won't.
"He's just practicing and we'll see what happens," Whittingham said, while noting that each week is more encouraging for Williams' return.
Reporters were not allowed to speak with Williams this week.
GAMEDAY VETERANS: TCU is experiencing its third showcase with ESPN's College Football GameDay show in the past year, with all three games against teams from the Beehive State. The Horned Frogs went 2-0 in such games last season — topping BYU in Provo and Utah in Fort Worth.
"We were very blessed to be a part of all that," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "But this is what I say about being on TV: It's great if you win, it's not great if you lose. So, for us, we need to go play our best football game."
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