Many had the University of Utah picked at or near the top of the South Division pecking order, even though it is the Utes’ first year in the Pac-12 Conference.
Some even thought the Utes would be picked ahead of USC.
Whether it was the luck of the draw, or just plain hard work that got the Utes to this stage, the ranking mattered little to Utah, who is just acting like they’re happy to be here, in sunny Los Angeles at the start of their first-ever, coast-to-coast football media week.
“We’re fully aware that the Pac-12 is a good conference, lot of good football teams. But with big challenge comes big opportunity. We’re excited about the opportunity we have moving forward,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Being picked third behind USC and Arizona State may be a slap in the face to most Ute fans.
In fact, it’s particularly unnerving considering that the Sun Devils didn’t go to a bowl game last year and USC is on probation, but in this first year of everything Pac-12, Utah will take what it can get.
Down the road, the Utes may not be as charitable.
All it has to do now in its thinking is play football, and that will begin in a little over a month, when the Utes square off against Montana State to open this historic season.
“The short-term goal is to win our opener against [Montana State] September 1. Long-term goal is to represent the South Division in the championship game, and we’ll see what happens,” Whittingham said.
PAC-12 Preseason Media Poll (points in parentheses)
1. USC (230)
2. Arizona St (209)
3. Utah (170)
4. Arizona (140)
5. UCLA (89)
6. Colorado (46)
Overall, Oregon received the most points (239) out of all of the teams in the Pac-12 Conference and was named the favorite to claim the conference title by media outlets.
Fellow newcomer to the Utes, Colorado was lowest in the North Division in terms of points, and the Buffaloes received the fewest number of points in the conference.
Next up for Ute head coach Kyle Whittingham and South Division coaches, in what is certainly new territory to Coach Whit, is a visit to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut on Wednesday, while North Division coaches visit New York-based media outlets.
Later that day, Coach Whit will reconvene in New York for a press conference with the other Pac-12 coaches.
On Thursday, Whittingham and the other South Division coaches do what the North Division coaches did one day prior; they will visit the Big Apple and tour various networks.
It’s obvious that Utah isn’t the only school in the Pac-12 undergoing changes from what is normally a two-to-three day process in one locale.
In the new Pac-12, it seems like all schools will be going through a period of adjustment, and as the conference’s new sizzle reel video suggests, Utah is now included.