It's business as usual up on the hill.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn't tweaking with his team's practice routine heading up to Saturday's showdown against BYU.

"Preparation week hasn't changed at all. If there was a better way to prepare for a team then we'd prepare that way every week," Whittingham said. "And so, we do our normal practice model. Our meeting times and everything stay the same. If there was a better way to do it, we wouldn't save it just for this week."

The Utes, he continued, are determined to maintain the status quo when it comes to weekly preparation.

"Every week in the season is exciting and important," Whittingham said. "Obviously the rivalry weeks take on a little more flavor than the other weeks, but it's our same routine, same practice schedule and same meeting schedule — so not a lot of change as far as how we go about our business."

After winning seven consecutive games, quarterback Brian Johnson said it's important that the Utes come out, continue a regular work week and not get caught up in the emotions of the rivalry.

"I think we have a mature team that realizes that and realizes what has allowed us to get to his point and had allowed us to win seven straight games," Johnson said. "And that's the way we work Monday through Friday."

It's a no-brainer, according to senior receiver Derrek Richards.

"We're on a seven-game win streak and things have been working for the last seven weeks," he said. "So we're not going to change it for this game just because it's BYU."

EVEN KEEL: After Monday's practice, a couple of players said they couldn't wait for Saturday to come. Whittingham said he knows "they're excited," and that it's a challenge to keep his team's emotions under control.

"You want to build as the week goes on," Whittingham said. "You don't want to play five ball games during the course of the week. You want to peak at 12:06 on Saturday."

FULLY INVESTED: At his weekly press conference Monday, Whittingham was asked if any members of his family still backed his alma mater BYU.

"Zero," he said. "There are zero Cougar holdovers in my family.

You can go and ask them all."

EXPECTING HALL: Whittingham is expecting BYU quarterback Max Hall to play Saturday, despite suffering a shoulder injury in last weekend's win at Wyoming.

"He'll play. That's not a factor. We don't even concern ourselves, really, with that at this point," said Whittingham, who acknowledged there likely won't be much information released about Hall's health prior to the game, anyhow. "We've got to go under the assumption that Max will play."

TALKING TURKEY: Thanksgiving isn't throwing a monkey wrench into Utah's game preparations.

"We'll practice," senior captain Steve Tate said. "We'll have our own little Turkey Bowl that morning."

The team won't dine together, but will gather for film study after eating Thanksgiving dinner.

"The coaches do a great job making sure everybody has a place to eat," said Tate, who noted that everyone will do their best to enjoy their Thanksgiving feasts. "It's tough because you've got this great holiday where you want to be with your family. But, at the same time, you've got this game in the back of your mind."

It's right there, he added, in front of you.

EXTRA POINTS:Johnson apparently tweaked his throwing arm against New Mexico, but was throwing at practice Monday. "It's just a bruise. He's fine," Whittingham said. Tight end Matt Sims (sore knee) is listed as questionable for Saturday's game. Linebacker Malakai Mokofisi (strained calf muscle) is doubtful ... The Utes won't travel to Provo until just before bed time on Friday ... Utah averaged 42,593 fans at home this season — the third-highest total in school history ... Luie Sakoda didn't make the list of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which honors the nation's top punter ... The Utes have three former Cougars on their coaching staff — Whittingham, receivers coach Aaron Roderick and linebackers coach Kalani Sitake.


Contributing: Mike Sorensen

E-mail: [email protected]