KICKOFF: Thursday, 10 p.m. ET
SITE: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
TV: FOX Sports 1
SERIES: Utah trails 9-2 overall and 3-2 in Salt Lake City, but UCLA last won at Utah in 1974.
AP RANKINGS: UCLA, No. 12; Utah unranked
KEYS TO THE GAME
Utah hosts UCLA on Thursday night in an important Pac-12 game for the Utes, who do not want to start another conference season 0-2.
Utah will also try to prove home-field advantage means something.
Through 19 games in the Pac-12 since joining the conference in the 2011 season, they have lost six games at home and on the road. They are 4-6 at Rice-Eccles Stadium and 3-6 on the road.
Utah lost its Pac-12 opener at home on Sept. 14 against Oregon State. The Beavers prevailed 51-48 in overtime in front of 45,221 fans.
"We want to make Rice-Eccles a place that is very tough for our opponents to come in and play," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We've got to do our best to get that corrected."
The Utes have learned that playing in the Pac-12 is decidedly different than competing against Mountain West programs. Utah had a 21-game home winning streak between 2007 and 2010.
Visiting teams have the potential to keep Utah reeling in Salt Lake City. After the Utes host No. 12 UCLA, their home schedule includes games against No. 5 Stanford and No. 22 Arizona State.
Now that Lane Kiffin is gone at USC, the coach with the hottest seat in the Pac-12 is Whittingham. He is 7-12 against Pac-12 opponents. He suffered his first losing season last year in his nine-year coaching career.
"The nature of the profession right now is not very patient," Whittingham said. "There's a lot of money at stake. It's big business.
"That's how it is. There's no change in it. I don't think there's anybody that doesn't want to win in the worst way and is far more concerned with that than what's going on externally. And so all you do is just do the best job you can. The other stuff that is out of your control you don't really worry about."
Whittingham's hopes of avoiding another losing season lie with sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson. He plays opposite Heisman hopeful Brett Hundley, another sophomore, of UCLA. They were both born in 1993.
Wilson has a pass efficiency rating of 166.6, which ranks third in the Pac-12. Hundley is fourth at 165.9. They're also third and fourth in total offense, with Wilson holding a 342.3 to 335 yards per game edge over Hundley.
Hundley holds a 282.7 to 279.5 advantage in passing yards per game over Wilson. They are sixth and seventh, respectively, in the conference. Wilson holds the upper hand in rushing, averaging 62.7 yards per game compared to 52.3 for Hundley.
With running back Johnathan Franklin off to the NFL, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone could have made the Bruins a pass-first offense.
But Jordon James has emerged as one of the nation's top running backs, ranking fifth in the country with 141.3 rushing yards per game.
UCLA ranks fourth in both rushing offense and passing offense in the Pac-12. The Bruins are the only team to rank in the upper division (top six) in both categories in the conference.
"It's a balance," Hundley said. "It's a big balance with this team. I feel like this offense, it balances itself out. At the end of the day, teams can't decide which one we're going to do just because we can do either/or."
Hundley, an elusive quarterback, contributes to UCLA's running production. He is second on the team with 157 yards on 32 carries. His versatility prevents defenses from loading up on the line to blitz or just falling back in coverage.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Travis Wilson is 3-1 this season and 6-5 in his career as the starter. Wilson has played in all 16 games since his freshman season in 2012 and has started the last 11. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Wilson has completed 64.3 percent of his passes (74-of-115) for 1,118 yards and nine touchdowns and three interceptions. All of Wilson's interceptions came against Oregon State. He is also Utah's second-leading rusher, with 32 carries for 251 yards and five TDs. His 7.8 yards per carry rank third in the Pac-12.
--RB Bubba Poole, a sophomore, has emerged from a close race with teammates Lucky Radley and Kelvin York to be the Utes' top running back. He leads Utah in carries (58), net yards (304) and rushing yards per game (76.0). He has one touchdown run. Poole has started the last two games, averaging 106.5 yards against Oregon State and BYU. He rushed for a career-high 117 yards against the Beavers in his first start. He also has 15 receptions (second on the team) for 120 yards.
--FS Eric Rowe, a junior, has played in and started 27 games since his freshman season. Rowe is fourth on the team with 24 tackles. He is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 in passes deflected (five) and is tied for sixth in passes deflected per game (1.25).
--WR Dres Anderson's father, Willie "Flipper" Anderson, had a 10-year NFL career for four teams after playing for UCLA, Utah's opponent on Thursday. The younger Anderson leads Utah in receptions (18), receiving yards (404), yards per game (101.0) and touchdowns (three). His 404 receiving yards through four games has already surpassed his team-leading 365 yards last season in 12 games.
--OG Xavier Su'a-Filo returns to Utah for the first time as a collegian when the Bruins play the Utes on Thursday. He won a state title playing at Rice-Eccles Stadium for Provo Timpview High School. Despite BYU and Utah enjoying success and UCLA struggling when he attended high school, Su'a-Filo left home to play with the Bruins. After serving a two-year Mormon mission he is one reason QB Brett Hundley is better protected this season. "All I remember was UCLA losing," Su'a-Filo said. "It didn't affect my decision. I loved UCLA."
--QB Brett Hundley ranks 16th in the nation in pass efficiency but is the fourth-best quarterback in that stat among Pac-12 quarterbacks (behind Stanford's Kevin Hogan, Washington's Keith Price and Utah's Travis Wilson). He is 11th in total offense, producing 335 yards a game. His matchup with Wilson on Thursday in Salt Lake City should be interesting. Wilson is seventh in the nation with 342.3 yards per game.
--WR Shaq Evans averages 24.5 yards a punt return, which ranks fourth nationally. He also leads UCLA with 13 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Evans is a big-play threat who averages 16.2 yards per reception.
--LB Eric Kendricks, a junior, ranks fourth in the Pac-12 with 8.7 tackles a game. That is slightly off the pace of the 10.6 average that led the conference last season. He has 26 tackles, 16 of them solo stops. His 20 straight starts is the longest streak on the team.