Kyle Whittingham looks at the season opener against Michigan.
Aug. 25, 2008
Game week is finally here. We are pleased with our football team's preparation during football camp and the whole offseason. They had excellent winter conditioning and summer workouts, they have a great attitude and work ethic and they are a very committed football team. I couldn't ask for anything more than what they've given. We are very healthy right now, relative to coming out of two-a-days. We should be at full strength barring anything unforeseen.
It is a great opportunity for us to be able to go to the `Big House.' We had a chance to go there in '02 and it was a hard-fought game and a defensive struggle, but we played very well. We will have our hands full with Michigan, they are steeped in tradition and have great resources. It is going to be very challenging for us.
On learning anything from openers in previous years:
We have to play better in our opener. Since I have been here, this is our fourth challenging opener. The level of our opponents has been very good. I don't think we handled the Rose Bowl very well in 2006 and let it get the best of us. Last year we were playing well early and we lost a couple of guys to injury and didn't react well to that adversity. We've got a fairly mature team as far as experience and on defense - we have returning starters who have played in big games and hopefully we will handle this better.
On the opportunity to play at Michigan:
We treat this like a business trip. No doubt playing at a place like the `Big House' is a great experience for them. But we go on the road to try to win a football game, and that's where it ends.
On preparing for the changes at Michigan since last year:
Any opener has an element of unknown regardless of circumstances. It is always a best-guess scenario. It is positive for us both offensively and defensively. There are similarities to us in schematics. That also works both ways - it is good for both of us, since there is a lot of common ground there. It gives us good preparation during practice. We have to go into the game with a broad-based game plan. Two to three series in you get a good idea of your game plan. Football is a game of adjustments - we will make them based on what we are seeing.
On Michigan's defense:
Three of their front four starters are returning. I like their speed and physicality. They have good corners. Just a great deal of athleticism on defense.
On Utah's position battles:
We have solidified those. We have two backs very close in ability and both will play. Caleb Schlauderaff will start at left guard. The only place not solidified is defensive tackle. We get Aaron Tonga back today and we will determine that this week. Everywhere else is pretty much solidified.
On the changes at Utah since playing Michigan in 2002:
We are much more in the national spotlight since after the 2004 season. Before, when I was an assistant, we would go into living rooms and have to explain a lot about the school. Five bowl wins later, everyone knows who we are now and what we're all about. Utah is much more of a household name than it was back in '02.
On what a win against Michigan would mean:
A win would go towards gaining respect for both ourselves and our conference. We do that by playing high-quality non-conference opponents. A lot of positives would come from a win. One game doesn't make or break a season. I don't believe in the theory that one game will make a season a disaster or make your whole year. We have to go play well and play our best football. We haven't done that the last few years in the opener.