The University of Utah football team has been listed as 16 1/2-point underdogs against TCU this week, and perhaps that is a good thing for the Utes.

"You can spin that any way you want," said coach Kyle Whittingham at Monday's press conference. "They deserve the respect they are getting now. But I'm sure we'll discuss that as a team."

Defensive back Brandon Burton believes being such big underdogs will be a motivating factor for the Utes this week.

"That will be a motivation for the guys, definitely," he said. "Coach Whitt will probably bring it up in meetings."

Whittingham also reminded everyone that the Utes are still the Mountain West Conference champions.

"We're the defending champ," he said. "The championship trophy is in this building and somebody's got to take that away from us."

Later, as the players were running their usual Monday wind sprints after practice, they were reminded of that as a loudspeaker blasted the rap song by Jadakiss. It was called "The Champ is Here."

SPECIAL GAME: The Utes aren't treating this week's game against TCU like any other.

Besides the rap music during sprints, the scout team players wore purple jerseys instead of the usual yellow ones, complete with the correct numbers of the opposing players.

The scout team quarterback was wearing No. 14 like Andy Dalton, a running back was 24 like Joseph Turner, etc. The last time the Utes did that was before last year's Sugar Bowl game when the scout team wore Crimson-colored jerseys.

"Every game is a big game, but this one has more implications as far as sole possession of first place in the conference," said Whittingham. "Whoever wins has the inside track."

NOT THAT SPECIAL: However, Whittingham didn't want to talk about the national implications of Saturday's game, such as whether a win will put the Utes back in the hunt for a BCS bowl berth.

"We don't pay any attention to that," he said. "It's out of our control. Whether I cared a great deal about it, or didn't care at all, would have no bearing.

"There is a lot of fanfare attached to the game, but once the ball is in the air, that stuff no longer becomes a factor because we're so focused on the job at hand."

MORE TEXAS GUYS: Compared to TCU's 102 players from Texas, Utah's 12 Texas players don't seem like much. But Whittingham said he'd like to double that amount over the next couple of years.

The Ute coach said his team will continue to recruit Texas hard, and he expects to have 20 to 25 Texas players within two years.

It would help if the Utes could schedule some games against Texas teams, but so far the Utes aren't having much luck besides their annual games with TCU.

"We've explored scheduling a lot of teams from Texas without a great deal of luck," Whittingham said.

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INJURY REPORT: Defensive tackle Kenape Eliapo may be out for the season because of an issue related to his eyes. Backup linebacker Matt Martinez is out for a couple of weeks with a strained quad.

Defensive tackle Lei Talamaivao is full strength after sitting out three games with a broken fibula.

UTE NOTES: Saturday night's game (5:30 MST) is already sold out. It will be the first sellout at TCU since 2006 ... Despite only getting 67 yards in his first three games, Eddie Wide has moved up to No. 2 in the MWC and No. 34 in the nation in rushing with 89.9 yards per game ... David Reed ranks 18th in the nation in receiving yards per game (91.0) and 24th in receptions per game (6.44) ... Besides quarterback Jordan Wynn, three other true freshmen have played for the Utes this year — offensive lineman Sam Brenner (nine games), defensive back Victor Spikes (six games) and defensive back Chase Maires (four games) ... The Utes rank 13th in the nation in passing defense and 18th in total defense and are tied for 15th in scoring defense at 16.4 points per game ... TCU ranks No. 3 in total defense, No. 4 in passing defense, No. 5 in scoring defense and No. 7 in passing defense.

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