While TCU continues to dominate opponents and inch closer to its goals of a perfect season and a BCS bowl berth, the fourth-ranked Horned Frogs' toughest remaining hurdle is a team that followed an identical path last year.
Utah would love to prevent its Mountain West rival from equaling its own feat, and the 16th-ranked Utes could also gain the inside track for a second straight conference title if they win Saturday's showdown in Fort Worth.
After finishing the 2008 regular season unscathed, Utah trounced Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to finish as the nation's only undefeated team at 13-0.
But an early loss to Oregon ended the Utes' winning streak, and TCU (9-0, 5-0) has emerged as the league's threat for a spot in the BCS.
The Horned Frogs have looked impressive in climbing the BCS standings to No. 4 -- highest ever for a team from a non-BCS conference. They've won seven games by at least 16 points, including the last four by an average of 38.3.
If TCU gets by Utah, it has an easy path to an unbeaten finish, with games remaining against struggling Wyoming and winless New Mexico.
"Our ultimate goal is to end the season undefeated," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We have a lot of potential but we have to keep going out and playing like this."
It would be hard for the team to play much better than it did in last Saturday's 55-12 win at San Diego State, as Dalton was 14 of 20 for 239 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for two more scores.
Dalton was one of nine players to carry the ball for TCU, which had 312 yards on the ground after totaling 390 in the previous week's drubbing of UNLV.
"Right now, we are a confident team," said Joseph Turner, who ran for his team-high ninth touchdown last Saturday. "We feel that no matter what play the coaches call, we are going to be successful."
Coach Gary Patterson's team has been arguably even better on defense, allowing a total of 25 points in the last four games. TCU's defense ranks third nationally, allowing 240.6 yards per game, while the offense ranks eighth (458.6 ypg).
"If you look at the stats, they are at or are near the top in all three phases of the game," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Coach Patterson has done a great job assembling talent and I think they do a great job coaching them. There is no question that this is the best football team we have faced from them to this point."
TCU went 11-2 and nearly derailed Utah on Nov. 6 last season, holding a four-point lead in Salt Lake City before the Utes scored a touchdown with 48 seconds left to win 13-10.
With the tables turned, the Utes (8-1, 5-0) look well equipped to challenge TCU. They've won six straight, holding each opponent under 20 points since the 31-24 defeat at Oregon on Sept. 19.
Utah rolled over New Mexico 45-14 last Saturday, totaling a season-high 557 yards as Jordan Wynn threw for 297 and two touchdowns in his first start.
The freshman had stepped in for struggling starter Terrance Cain to finish a 22-10 victory over Wyoming the previous week.
"He knows the offense well. He knows defenses pretty well, too, and knows when to check in and out of things," wide receiver Jereme Brooks said of Wynn. "Him back there being so smart just makes us a better offense as a whole. He can put any pass where he wants to put it."
Wynn is in a much tougher situation against TCU and will likely need continued help from the running game. Both Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin had 100-yard games against the Lobos, with Wide reaching that mark for a school-record sixth consecutive game.
With first place in the Mountain West on the line, Utah will be trying to bookend TCU's 12-game home winning streak, which began after Utah's 27-20 victory in Fort Worth on Oct. 18, 2007.
Despite their success, the Horned Frogs have struggled with fan support, but Saturday's high-stakes meeting has been confirmed as the school's first sellout since Sept. 16, 2006, against Texas Tech.
"It's going to be exciting and there is a lot of fanfare attached to the game," Whittingham said, "but once the ball is in the air, from a player's perspective, that stuff no longer becomes a factor."
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every College Football game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.
Perhaps the most important game of the week in relation to the BCS standings will take place in Fort Worth, where TCU will host Utah. The Horned Frogs have climbed to No. 4 in the standings and have the inside track to a BCS bowl bid. Utah still controls its destiny in the Mountain West and with a little help and luck could be in the BCS bowl mix. Utah leads the series with TCU 5-1, the only blemish an overtime loss in 2005.