Tom Smart, Deseret News
Coach Kyle Whittingham says his Utes have a goal each year of winning the conference championship, something they haven't done since 2004.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had a swift and firm response to the question of what it's time for the Utes to do.

"Win a Mountain West Conference championship," he said.

After winning back-to-back titles in 2003-04, Utah has finished third each season since.

The three-year drought, Whittingham added, has been too long.

League championships are an annual goal for the Utes and something Whittingham believes is attainable every season.

"This program is at the level where we should have that in our sights every single year," he said. "There's never a year where we should sit back and say 'No, we're not going to be good enough this year.'"

The schedule-maker didn't hurt Utah's chances of reclaiming the MWC championship. Projected contenders BYU and TCU are both coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium this fall. The Utes host the Horned Frogs on Nov. 8 and the Cougars on Nov. 22.

After heartbreaking finishes the past two years in the latter, success in the big rivalry would hold extra-special meaning. It may also lead to another Bowl Championship Series berth.

However, only time — and perhaps 11 other victories during the season — will tell.