For the record, the Utah-TCU series has been rather lopsided. The Utes have won five of six all-time meetings, including the last three. Their lone shortcoming in the series was a 23-20 overtime loss in Fort Worth in 2005.

"They have good players and they're well coached. We don't necessarily have the speed factor on Utah and they do a good job," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, who has a winning record against every team in the Mountain West Conference except for Utah. "Not only TCU but a lot of people struggle with Utah. For us, we understand what they represent always. It's always been close games. It's always been physical ballgames."

The past two, especially.

Utah's dramatic 13-10 win in Salt Lake City last season was preceded by a 27-20 triumph in Fort Worth a year earlier.

Patterson is expecting another tight contest Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

"This ballgame is probably not going to be much different," he said.

A sellout crowd and ESPN's "College Football GameDay" program will be on hand for the battle between ranked teams, complete with Bowl Championship Series ramifications and sole possession of first place in the MWC.

"You love playing great competition. You like playing in big ballgames. That's really what you play for," Patterson said. "You get a chance to prove what kind of player you are and what kind of team that you have. Utah is one of those teams that always makes you step up to the plate."

Tight games and conference title contention aren't the only thing that links the Utes and Horned Frogs.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that the type of athletes targeted by the programs in recruiting is comparable. Both put a premium on speed and quickness.

"Our personnel is similar as far as what type of personnel we both have," he said. "We match up athlete-wise on a lot of different levels."

A look at the series:

2008 — UTAH 13, TCU 10: At Salt Lake City, Brian Johnson completed 7-of-9 passes in a final drive that lifted the Utes past the Horned Frogs. A 9-yard scoring strike to Freddie Brown with 48 seconds remaining proved to be the difference. TCU kicker Ross Evans missed two field-goal attempts (26, 36 yards) in the final 5:49.

2007 — UTAH 27, TCU 20: At Fort Worth, Johnson returned to his home state and quarterbacked the Utes to their fourth consecutive victory on the season. Contributions were plentiful. On defense, Steve Tate led the Utes with 12 tackles and Martial Burnett returned an interception 55-yards for a touchdown.

2006 — UTAH 20, TCU 7: At Salt Lake City, Eric Weddle headlined a defensive effort that held the Horned Frogs to just 169 yards and seven first downs over the first three quarters. TCU's final drives ended with three turnovers and a loss on downs. The win over the came just five days after a 36-3 loss at home to Boise State.

2005 — TCU 23, UTAH 20 (OT): At Fort Worth, Utah's 18-game winning streak came to an end on a muggy Saturday night in Texas. A 4-yard touchdown pass from Tye Gunn to Michael DePriest proved to be the game-winner. Controversy surrounding an illegal pick on the play brewed, but officials never threw a flag.

1997 — UTAH 32, TCU 18: At Fort Worth, Jonathan Crosswhite completed 16-of-23 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns to pace the Utes to victory in their WAC opener. Utah led 25-3 late in the third quarter before TCU made things interesting with 15 straight points.

1996 — UTAH 21, TCU 7: At Salt Lake City, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns as the Utes prevailed on a cold, rainy/snowy October afternoon. The Horned Frogs were held to just 229 yards of total offense on the slippery playing surface.

MWC showdown

No. 16 Utah (8-1) at No. 4 TCU (9-0)

Saturday, 5:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: CBS C Radio: 700 AM