It is arguably the biggest sporting event in Utah since the Olympics were in town 8½ years ago.
The Saturday afternoon showdown between No. 4 TCU and No. 6 Utah is more than a battle for supremacy in the Mountain West Conference. It's a battle of unbeatens, with national title hopes on the line for both teams and a chance for TCU to atone for a 2008 loss to the Utes in the infamous "blackout" game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
It's also a chance for Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn to show the Horned Frogs he isn't the freshman they beat up on a year ago.
"It's all on the line," said Utah center Zane Taylor, who along with his teammates will be wearing new black and camouflage uniforms in support of the Wounded Warrior Project. "I can't imagine playing against a better team and proving to the nation how good we are."
Utah is 8-0, TCU 9-0, with both teams in the top five in the BCS standings and two of only five teams still perfect. ESPN is airing its GameDay Show from the stadium parking lot, and CBS College Sports is having a free preview that will allow the game to be seen in about 57 million homes, about 19 million more than usual.
Utah officials are even allowing overnight camping starting Friday so the party can begin.
For Taylor, a Utah captain, it can't start soon enough, especially since the Utes are 4 1/2-point underdogs despite their 21-game home winning streak.
"I love being an underdog," Taylor said. "Expect me to lose, I'm going to fight with everything to prove you wrong."
TCU is favored for several reasons, starting with the numbers the Horned Frogs have rolled up this year. They have outscored their five Mountain West opponents 189-16, allowing just two touchdowns in the process.
TCU also leads the nation in scoring defense (8.7 points per game), total defense (217.3 yards), pass defense (119.0 yards), fewest first downs allowed (12.1 per game) and opponent third-down percentage (23.9). The Frogs are on pace for the NCAA's lowest scoring defense mark since 1988, when Auburn surrendered an average of 7.2 points.
"This game is more than just about winning and losing," said coach Gary Patterson, who claims seven or eight recruits change their minds and committed to TCU after its 55-28 win over Utah in Fort Worth, Texas, last season.
"This is about the program, about recruiting, about all the things we're trying to get accomplished as a program that ultimately gets to the top of that pyramid," he said, "which means trying to play for a national championship."
Two years ago, TCU came close, only to see two missed field goals and a last-minute Utah touchdown derail those championship hopes.
"It was unbelievable," Utah quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said of the atmosphere of that first "blackout" game, in which he directed an 80-yard drive and tossed the winning pass.
"Talk about a battle to the end. That was a defining moment for our program."
Utah, the original BCS buster in 2004, went on to win the Sugar Bowl and finish No. 2 in the nation. TCU ended up No. 7 after the Poinsettia Bowl.
"I felt every human emotion you could feel in that game, it was such an emotional rollercoaster," Taylor said of Utah's 13-10 come-from-behind win. "I know fans love to see those kinds of games. As a player you hate those kinds of games."
That said, the Utes were preparing to open up their playbook against TCU to keep pace with an extremely talented and quick opponent. As tough as the Frogs were in '08 and '09, Taylor said they are even better. But he believes the Utes are, too.
"We are the two best teams. Right now, this game is a national championship for me and that's the kind of focus and energy I'm going to put into it, and what I'll demand from my teammates," Taylor said.
Utah safety Justin Taplin-Ross, a backup two years ago, felt the rush of the big game as early as Monday, when he donned the camo uniforms for the media.
"This is everything any player would dream of when you're young and watching College GameDay," he said. "You wish to be on the field. Now I (will) and I'm going to give it all I got."