Utah's gymnastics team has had the luxury of going into its past two meets knowing it would take a near disaster to lose to Utah State or BYU.
That all changes Friday night.
The Utes, who have earned the nation's No. 1 ranking this week for the first time since 2009, must defend their lofty position against their biggest rival as the No. 4 Georgia Gym Dogs visit the Huntsman Center.
Georgia has struggled to maintain its dominance ever since Suzanne Yoculan retired following the 2009 season, and the team has failed to qualify for the NCAA's Super Six the past two years.
However, the Utes consider the rivalry as strong as ever, and Georgia appears to be on an upswing this season in coach Jay Clark's third year.
Georgia is coming off a season-high 197.25 in a win over LSU.
Utah drew more than 15,000 fans to its win over BYU a week ago and expects another large crowd Friday. More than 11,000 tickets had been sold as of Thursday.
"We know it's a big, big week," said senior Stephanie McAllister, who was sporting her "I hate the SEC" T-shirt Monday. "They are a good team and in a meet like this, we know it could come down head to head and routine to routine. Everything matters. The landings, all that."
After winning comfortably the past two weeks with scores above 197, the Utes are ready for such a showdown, coach Greg Marsden said.
"This is the kind of meet we need to help us get ready for the postseason," he said. "It's going to be an entirely different environment, and I want to see if we can stay focused and handle that kind of situation."
The Utes did just fine in a similar situation during the season opener at UCLA, where they rallied from a poor start to nearly knock off the Bruins.
But Friday's meet will be different. The Utes are expecting a full house and know Georgia will have revenge on its mind since the Utes have won the past two meetings.
Last year Utah beat Georgia at home, ending the Gym Dogs' home winning streak at 34 meets.
"I know that would be meaningful for them, to come in and repay us for last year," Marsden said.
The Utes also feel an added responsibility to win the meet for their conference. In the past, hearing SEC teams chant their conference name at national meets served only to irritate the Utes, but now that they are a member of the Pac-12, they have a new appreciation for conference pride.
Of the top 15 teams in the rankings, four are from the Pac-12 and six are from the SEC.
"It's hard to appreciate until you are in something like this," Marsden said. "You always want to beat the other teams, but when you are in a conference there is a camaraderie that goes along with it. This isn't going to be Utah vs. Georgia, which is already a big deal, but the SEC vs. the Pac-12. It's going to be wild."
No. 4 Georgia at No. 1 Utah
P At the Huntsman Center, Friday, 7 p.m.
Records • Utah (2-1), Georgia (3-1)
About the Utes • The Utes have the No. 1 ranking for the first time since the 2009 season. â¦ Utah trails the all-time series with Georgia 24-21-1 but has won the past two head-to-head meetings.
About the Bulldogs • The lone loss was to defending champion Alabama, 196.475-196.325. â¦ Led by Kat Ding, the 2011 uneven bars champion and Nicole Couch, who has a season-high best 39.275 in the all-around.