SALT LAKE CITY — All week long, the Utah football team has been getting ready for Air Force's unusual triple-option attack. Except for Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl a couple of years back, it's an offense the Utes rarely see.
But don't think the Utes have just spent the past few days working on it. According to coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes have worked on the Falcons' option three different times before this week.
"We did some in spring ball, took some time in fall camp, and we took some time during the bye week," said Whittingham. "So that gives us a good foundation for what we're doing. There's only a few teams in the country that you need to do that for. If you just start from scratch on the week of the game, there's not enough time to get ready for Air Force."
BETTER NOW THAN EARLY?: The prevailing notion is that it's better to play Air Force late in the season than early, because the Falcons seem to wear down as the season goes along.
Don't tell that to coach Whittingham. He just laughed when asked if that was true.
"I don't see any truth in that at all," he said. "You could say they're getting their option in high gear by the end of the season, so I don't subscribe to that theory. It doesn't matter when we play them. I think there's advantages and disadvantages to both."
The Utes have won six of the past seven meetings against the Falcons, including three in a row in Colorado Springs. The one loss was the earliest game ever played between the two, on Sept. 8, 2007, a 20-12 AFA win in Salt Lake.
MORE TOP TENS: The Utes are ranked in the Top 10 in the country right now at No. 7 in the coaches poll and No. 8 in the AP poll.
The Utes are also in the top 10 in 11 different statistical categories in the latest NCAA statistics. Utah ranks No. 2 in punt returns, kickoff returns and passing efficiency. The Utes are No. 3 in third-down efficiency and No. 4 in scoring defense and tied for fourth in sacks allowed per game.
They are No. 5 in total defense, third-down efficiency defense and first downs allowed, 6th in rushing defense and 10th in pass defense.
On the individual front, the Utes have one No. 1 player in Shaky Smithson, who leads the nation in punt return average at 23.33 yards per return.