SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah football team will play in the Pac-12 Championship game next week for the first time in program history.
It will be the biggest game of the season for the Utes, with a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line. So, will head coach Kyle Whittingham rest his top players against BYU to have them ready for the championship game six days later?
"I've heard several people say that you should do whatever you can to maximize your chances for the championship game, but that's not our approach,” said Whittingham. “Our approach is one game at a time. We're not looking past this game. Our players are warriors and they're born to compete. They want to play and get out there go to battle with each other."
“We want to play all the way,” said Utah senior linebacker Cody Barton. “This is BYU. If they held out the starters, which they would never do, that would be devastating. We're taking this week as a championship game."
The Utes have definitely been up for the rivalry game in recent years, winning seven straight games against the Cougars, and they don't want that winning streak to end.
“There is a lot of pressure,” said senior offensive lineman Lo Falemaka. “We don't want to be that class that was known to end that winning streak against BYU, so it's not going to be this class."
“I can't tell you how many years it's been, but we know that it needs to change,” said BYU junior wide receiver Micah Simon. “We’ll use that as motivation this week.”
"We're just excited to go out and break that streak,” said BYU senior offensive lineman Austin Hoyt. “It just puts that extra little chip on our shoulders knowing that they're coming in with a lot of momentum.”
"Not a lot of people are picking us to win, that's okay,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “I don't mind being in this position, so we'll see what happens."
The Utes are 13.5 point favorites, but they expect a tough game from the Cougars. Six of the last seven games have been decided by seven points or less.
"It's rivalry week, and I think that to go in saying this is just like every other game, you know, I don't like that approach as much as saying this is the real deal,” said Utah sophomore wide receiver Britain Covey. “We have a lot of respect for them as a team, and as a program, we know they are going to come out and give us their best shot, so I'm excited.”
You can watch the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday, Nov. 30 on Fox 13.