LOGAN This is it, sort of.
After tonight, Utah and Utah State won't square off at Romney Stadium again until 2012. Tonight's game the 108th edition of the nation's 12th-most-played rivalry is taking a two-year hiatus after next season's meeting in Salt Lake City. The impending break, which accommodates the Utes visiting Notre Dame in 2010 among other things, will end a run of annual showdowns that dates back to 1944.
The Cache Valley finale isn't being looked at as a sentimental journey, however.
"It hadn't dawned on me," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I guess it'll be a while before we go back up there. That doesn't change our approach at all or our mindset."
The 22nd-ranked Utes (2-0) are focused on getting an 11th straight victory over the Aggies (0-2) and starting the season with three consecutive wins for the first time since 2004.
"We've just got to go out there and win," said senior running back Darrell Mack. "You can't underestimate any team or they'll come out and beat you. We're going to be ready."
After a slow start last week against UNLV, Utah is determined to get on track early.
"It's important for us to come out fast and really sustain it throughout the whole game," said senior receiver Brent Casteel, who added that the Utes have worked hard to correct mistakes made in season-opening wins over Michigan and UNLV.
Looking past USU, thus, isn't in the cards even if the series has been extremely lopsided as of late.
Whittingham said his team's standard operational procedure is to be mentally ready each game, regardless of the opponent.
"It's easy not to look ahead. It's easy. Every week in Division I football is a playoff week," he explained. "That's how it works. It's a situation where you can't back off at any time during the season."
And none of it, he added, has anything to do with moving up in the polls.
"I have no concern for the Top 25. Whatever happens, happens," said Whittingham. "We are just trying to win each and every week. We're not trying to do anything more or less than that."
Utah's offense, however, will be trying to put four quarters together. The Utes had a subpar second half at Michigan and a less-than-stellar first half against UNLV. They'll face a USU defense that ranks among the nation's most generous after two games.
"I think they're going to make some adjustments. Other than that, I think our offense will be more than ready. We're looking forward to going out there and establishing the run game," Mack said. "We establish the run game on them and it'll be over as soon as we get it started. So we've got to go out there, play hard against this team and give it all we got so we can get this win just like they're going to give all their best."
USU coach Brent Guy acknowledges the Aggies will have their hands full against the Utes.
"I think that Brian Johnson is the best quarterback that we have faced overall just in the way that he throws and runs," Guy said before directing his comments to the defense.
"The biggest difference is how aggressive Utah is in the secondary. Just with the press they are playing not allowing people to get off the line of scrimmage. It also allows them to add people to pressure the quarterback."
And speaking of quarterbacks, Guy has declined to say who will start against the Utes senior Sean Setzer or sophomore Diondre Borel, who leads USU in rushing and touchdown passes thrown.
"You prepare for them both. They've both played in the first two games and so we've just got to have a plan for both of them," Whittingham said. "It's obviously beyond our control which one they go with. We'll just have to adjust accordingly based on who's in the game."
What is known are things Whittingham has come to expect in Logan. He anticipates a full house with a boisterous crowd and tough play by USU."We have had some tough battles up there," Whittingham said. " ... We seem to get their best effort each time we play the Aggies."
BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS
No. 22 Utah (2-0) at Utah St (0-2)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV: KJZZ, Ch. 14
Radio: 700 AM and 1320 AM