SALT LAKE CITY — Just after the final seconds ticked off following Utah's 27-10 win Thursday night, proud Montana State fans on the southwest corner of Rice-Eccles Stadium loudly chanted "MSU, MSU" as their players walked by on their way to the locker room.
Across the way on the east side of the stadium, the Ute students in The MUSS, answered with their own chant of "Beat USC, Beat USC" as the Ute players shuffled past.
With the pesky Bobcats from the Big Sky out of the way and in the rearview mirror, the Utah football team can finally, and officially, look ahead to its Pac-12 debut against the mighty USC Trojans a week from Saturday at the L.A. Coliseum.
For the past month, the Utes have said all the right things, blah blah blah, about how they had all of their attention focused on dangerous Montana State, which actually played the Utes pretty tough after spotting them an early 24-0 lead.
Now the Utes can talk about USC, which they did after Thursday night's victory.
"It's going to be a good test for us and I'm excited and the whole team's excited," said Jordan Wynn. "They're a great football team with a great tradition. To get an opportunity to play in the Coliseum, it doesn't get much better. So we have to go out and have a big week and get prepared."
"It's a game we're excited about," added linebacker Brian Blechen. "It will be cool to go to the Coliseum. It will be a big challenge, but it will be a big opportunity as well. Starting tomorrow we start preparing for next week and we'll be ready."
After not being real happy with their overall performance Thursday, the Utes said they'll need to play much better next week.
"A lot better," said Wynn. "We have to play a lot cleaner, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Don't discredit Montana State — they're a good football team and played tough and didn't give up at all. But we can't play like that and expect to win."
Coach Kyle Whittingham went a step further and said the Utes "won't win a game in the Pac-12" if they play like they did Thursday.
The Utes and Trojans will meet up Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m. MDT in the Pac-12 opener for both teams. The Trojans play host to Minnesota Saturday for their first game.
"We've got a lot of work to do," said Whittingham. "We'll have a chance to watch USC and Minnesota (Saturday) and get a feel for where they're at and build from there. From our own perspective we've got to get significantly better in the next nine days."
The Utes are happy to have a couple of extra days to prepare for USC after their disappointing performance Thursday.
Whittingham said the team would watch film of the game Friday and lift weights and condition before taking the weekend off.
"We'll take a good look at this film," said Whittingham, with an emphasis on "good." We'll take a good chunk of time to watch this tape and learn from what we didn't do well."