Scott D. Pierce: Whittingham does well on ESPN

Published: Friday, Oct. 24 2008 1:00 a.m. MDT

Kyle Whittingham played in the big leagues on Tuesday, and he did a heck of a job.

Taking advantage of the Utes' bye week, Utah's football coach traveled to Connecticut to make the ESPN rounds. Whittingham talked up his team on ESPN, ESPN2 and on two different ESPN Radio shows.

It was, quite simply, a great idea. And great timing, coming the week that Utah became the highest-rated, non-BCS school in the BCS rankings.

Whittingham acquitted himself well. He came across as smart and focused. He didn't oversell his team, but his quiet confidence made a better case for the Utes being among the nation's football elite.

It's impossible to say how much his day in Connecticut will help the Utes, but it can only have left a good impression in the minds of fans. And, if Whittingham and his team are lucky, in the minds of poll voters.

JUST ONE SUGGESTION: When selling the Utes' four November games as a tough challenge, Whittingham probably shouldn't have mentioned San Diego State and New Mexico quite as much as he did.

I know you don't want to give the Aztecs or the Lobos any bulletin-board material, but SDSU is 1-6, with a loss to Cal Poly. Yes, 4-4 New Mexico is a much better team — the Lobos beat the Aztecs 70-7 last week. And we know that UNM has been a challenge for Utah more times than not. But the national audience isn't going to know (or buy) that.

Talk about having two of your final four games against ranked opponents (TCU and BYU). Talk about it a lot.

It's something other teams — like, oh, maybe Boise State — can't claim.

THE FOX SOCCER CHANNEL'S Max Bretos seemed to be a bit confused when he was in Utah last week. And, because of that, he may have left viewers confused as well.

The confusion began even before Real Salt Lake's game against FC Dallas kicked off when the FSC play-by-play man asked, "Who will seize this opportunity to take a playoff spot?"

It continued with Bretos calling it "a match with everything to gain" and pointing out that "one of these teams" would get "knocked out" by a loss.

And it reached a crescendo in the wake of Robbie Findley's goal that gave RSL a 3-1 lead when Bretos exclaimed, "They're on their feet at Rio Tinto because they know the playoffs have arrived and will be coming to Utah."

None of which was true. The winner of the game could not "seize" a playoff game. Neither team could clinch with a victory.

The loser of the game would only get "knocked out" if the loser was FC Dallas. RSL would still have a chance even if it had lost.

And the playoffs have not "arrived" in Utah despite the win. RSL has to tie or beat the Colorado Rapids on Saturday or the playoff drought continues.

What made all of this so strange is that Bretos apparently knew RSL couldn't clinch the playoffs with a win.

"They get a victory here ... they can finally taste postseason action," he said. "It would be almost impossible for them not to see another game here at Rio Tinto Stadium when November rolls around."

Almost being the operative word.

If you were still tuned in when Bretos said, "It all depends on tomorrow as Colorado, if they win, they can still knock Real Salt Lake out."

If you missed that part, there were lots of opportunities to be led astray because Bretos so frequently misstated the situation.

Weird.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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