UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — All things considered, the Utah Utes took being picked to finish second in the Pac-12 South as a compliment. They trailed only conference favorite USC in the conference's annual preseason media poll.
"It's fun for the media and the fans, but I don't think you'll find many coaches that pay much attention to it," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said at Tuesday's Pac-12 Media Day at Universal Studios. "But it's a good show of respect for us and I think that's probably about right going in."
USC received 117 first-place votes and 729 points to top the South Division poll. Utah received one first-place vote and 514 points.
Running back John White considered it an honor, noting that the Utes are still kind of a nobody in the Pac-12 after one season in the league. They went 4-5 in conference play in 2011 — defeating Arizona, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington State, but falling to Arizona State, California, Colorado, USC and Washington.
"Last year we didn't really have the season we wanted," defensive tackle Star Lotulelei said while noting the preparation that has taken place over the spring and summer. "As a team, I think, we're ready for this season — a lot better than we were last year."
White vows the Utes will earn their success on the field.
UCLA was picked to finish third in the South with two top votes and 435 points. Arizona (385 points), Arizona State (353 points including three first-place votes) and Colorado (164 points) rounded things out.
Oregon topped the North Division. The Ducks received 117 first-place votes and 732 points overall. Stanford, Washington, California, Washington State and Oregon State follow in projected order of finish.
The poll also tabbed USC as the runaway pick to also win the Pac-12 title game, netting 102 votes as compared to 18 for Oregon.
Lotulelei, though, isn't putting any stock in the media predictions — even Utah's lofty predicted order of finish.
"I don't really think too much of it. It's great recognition for the team but we haven't done anything yet. The season hasn't started," he said. "I think as a team we're pushing for that No. 1 spot, just like every other team is. So we'll see what happens when the season comes."
2012 Pac-12 football preseason media poll
1. Oregon (117) 732
2. Stanford (5) 533
3. Washington 502
4. California (1) 382
5. Washington State 228
6. Oregon State 205
1. USC (117) 729
2. Utah (1) 514
3. UCLA (2) 435
4. Arizona 385
5. Arizona State (3) 353
6. Colorado 164
PAC-12 TITLE GAME CHAMPION: USC (102 votes)
Others receiving votes: Oregon (18), Arizona State (3)
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