So with gametime merely two days away, I thought I'd take a look at what they're saying out in Utah:
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham discusses the game in his press conference on Monday. Overall, he seems really confident and it sounds like the Utes will be ready to play.
The Utes offense features a 1,000 yard rusher in senior Eddie Wide. Wide is a true star and he averaged more than five yards per carry on the ground last year. But the receivers are looking to be featured on Thursday as long as sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn does his part:
“We are ready to go,” said senior wideout Shaky Smithson. “We came into camp this year with the attitude that no one can contain us on the outside or going across the middle. We will make any defense that lines up against us pay for underestimating us. As long as Jordan (Wynn) can get us the ball, and he will, we will make plays.”
Whittingham also thinks the receivers will be ready:
“Knowing that we can throw the ball down field to capable, athletic players opens up so many doors for any coach preparing a game plan on the offensive side of the football,” Whittingham said. “Our receivers seem to rise to the occasion every year, I don’t see any reason why this year will be any different.”
Meanwhile, it's understandable for Utah to bring up the 2005 Fiesta Bowl debacle. That's likely the last time many of them have watched Pitt play. Still, it doesn't sound like Whittingham is using that game as any kind of point of reference:
"It's a whole new coaching regime, a whole new program," he said. "There are no similarities with this Pittsburgh team as opposed to the one we played in '05. It's a complete transformation."
He also, correctly, pointed out that this year's Pitt team is much better than that 2004-05 team in that press conference audio link above. I don't blame Utah for mentioning the game. It really helped to catapult them to getting into the conversation as seriously belonging in the BCS. And in a lot of ways, it helped open the door for teams like Boise State and TCU to get serious shots at BCS bowls. If Utah loses that game, no telling how much it affects the influence of voters.
But back to this week's game. Dave Wannstedt is being taken to task (somewhat) for his comment about Tino Sunseri winning a high school state championship:
And Utah is putting a lot of emphasis in stopping Pitt's star defensive ends, Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. So much so, that the team is not even allowing a new offensive tackle to speak to the media this week:
Wanted to talk to Utah offensive lineman John Cullen about his debut with the Utes and the challenge he in particular faces Thursday. Unfortunately the Utes have him on media lockdown and won't allow him to do interviews.
I was told Monday he was getting too many requests and the coaches want him to focus on the game. During several years of covering Utah, the Utes have made similar bans before with certain players, usually quarterbacks, but not with linemen. Kind of tells you right there what the Utes think of Pitt's defensive line, doesn't it?
Preventing an offensive lineman from speaking to the media? Wow, that's some kind of focus.