LOGAN — A home meet for Utah State against the University of Utah gymnastics team is always a big challenge, but "now they're No. 1 in the country," says Aggie coach Ray Corn.

"We have absolutely nothing to lose" when the 1-0 Utes come calling at 6:45 tonight in the Smith Spectrum. It's USU's season opener.

Utah coach Greg Marsden said his team could enjoy its new rating for a day or so, but he and the Utes all know it's based on just one good meet, and the real objective is to be on top in the postseason, not just in January. "It's fun to talk about and be congratulated, but we realize it's the first week of the year," he said.

"Enjoy it while you're there. But we've got to get better. UCLA will get better," Marsden said, adding that other top teams like Nebraska, Georgia and Alabama will also improve over the next few months. So "we'd better get better.

"What's fun is we started off strongly."

After knocking off the two-time defending NCAA-champion UCLA Bruins last week, the Utes have a mandate this week to be that good again on the road without sophomore Rachel Tidd, who is ranked first and second in the country in the two events in which she competed last week, scoring 9.95s on vault and bars.

Tidd was limited last week by back spasms caused by sitting too long in one position studying for December finals. On Monday she reinjured her back landing in a foam pit, trying to be careful. She somehow twisted it slightly and aggravated it enough that she'll be out tonight and have to rest for a bit after that. Doctors say again that there's no structural damage.

Junior co-captain Kristen Riffanacht might replace Tidd on vault and bars, though freshman Jessica Duke could also take either spot, and sophomore Stephanie Lim is a possibility on bars.

Marsden is interested to see how his outstanding freshman, Ashley Postell, performs in her second meet. She is tied with senior teammate Annabeth Eberle for No. 1 in the country in the all-around, having scored 39.625 against UCLA.

That was the top freshman debut in Ute history, eclipsing the 39.40 by Theresa Kulikowski in January 1999. Kulikowski wound up NCAA all-around champion in April 1999.

Postell had some interesting connections at the UCLA meet because she nearly chose to attend UCLA over Utah. But she knows little about Logan or the Aggies, won't have 10,000 fans cheering for her tonight and isn't used to competing twice a week yet.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com