Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow claims Saturday's contest at USC is just another game to him. Utah's players sense otherwise.
"He has been one of the most intense guys this week," Utah offensive lineman John Cullen said. "He is fired up. No one is joking around with Coach Chow this week; he is fired up for this game."
Chow earned national acclaim for helping the Trojans win national titles in 2003 and 2004 as the Trojans' offensive coordinator.
In addition to mentoring quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, Chow helped develop current USC coach Lane Kiffin, who was the passing game coordinator and receivers coach in 2004.
But with respect sometimes comes good-natured mockery, which is why Utah's players are jokingly referring to Chow as "Hollywood" this week, a nickname that amuses but doesn't surprise coach Kyle Whittingham.
"He is an icon," Whittingham said.
Icon or not, Chow is trying to keep the focus on the team, particularly since the offense didn't show well in the opener.
The most important items are creating bigger plays than the Utes had against Montana State and getting quarterback Jordan Wynn over the mental block that hampered him in the opener.
Chow believes both issues can be addressed by Saturday.
"We'll be ready," he said. "Our guys are excited and it's a great opportunity. It's been a long time, but it's always been an exciting place to play to me. It's one of the great college venues for football and I'm anxious to take our guys down there and play this thing."
Whittingham said plans are to redshirt receiver Anthony Denham, a junior who missed most of camp with a hamstring injury.
"Nothing is definite, but it is looking that way unless something unforeseen happens," Whittingham said.
Denham was contending for a starting role, but the 6-foot-4, 231-pound junior college transfer remains hampered by the injury and hasn't caught up to his other teammates.
"Even today he can't run all out," Whittingham said.
Road trip I
The Utah ticket office has sold 5,000 tickets for Saturday's game, the most for any road game this season. The Utes sold out of their allotments for the BYU game (2,800) and Cal game (3,000). The Utes have some of their 1,500 tickets remaining for the Nov. 5 game at Arizona and have tickets available for the Pitt and Washington State games.
Road trip II
In honor of the inaugural Pac-12 game and in special recognition of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Pac-12 has created a commemorative game ball that is being signed by all the head coaches in the league.
The ball, which was signed by Whittingham on Wednesday, will arrive in Los Angeles on Friday and will be presented to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott during pre-game activities.