HENDERSON, Nev. — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham wasn't surprised by the results.

"I think it's what I expected," Whittingham said after the Mountain West Conference's annual media poll and preseason all-conference football team were released at the Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa.

The Utes were picked to finish second, netting the five first-place votes that BYU didn't receive from the panel of 34 media members predicting the outcome.

"How could you not pick them as No. 1?" he said while noting that the Cougars have gone undefeated in conference play the past two seasons.

That, however, doesn't mean Utah is content to settle into the second position.

"We want a Mountain West Conference championship. It's eluded us for the last three years. That's what we have our sights set on," Whittingham said. "I don't think anybody is playing for second."

The poll results, thus, aren't being taken too seriously.

"We try to take in all that stuff with a grain of salt and focus on our team goals and our personal goals," said Utah punter/kicker Louie Sakoda. "Coach Whit does a pretty good job of keeping us focused. He deals with the media and makes it so it's not really on our shoulders."

Quarterback Brian Johnson isn't worried about the poll, either. "I don't really have a reaction. I mean, it is what it is," he said.

"(BYU) is the two-time champion of our league. Obviously, they'll be picked to be the favorite. All we can do is control what we control and just let our play speak for itself."

The Utes, who open the season Aug. 30 at Michigan, were represented on the all-conference team by five players. Sakoda headlined the list. Besides earning Special Teams Player of the Year recognition, he was named the league's top punter and place-kicker.

"To me that's another obvious selection," Whittingham said. "Louie Sakoda is an All-American punter and kicker. He's been a great weapon for us for three years and we're fortunate to have him back for one more year."

Sakoda's growing list of accolades hasn't altered the senior's approach. "Like I always say, you've got to stay modest," he said. "Otherwise you start to leave the ground; think you've arrived and all that stuff. Then all of a sudden your play goes downhill. (I'm) just trying to stay grounded."

Utah's other all-conference honorees included lineman Robert Conley on offense, as well as defensive standouts Paul Kruger, Brice McCain and Robert Johnson.

Brian Johnson made the team last year, but didn't this time after an injury-plagued 2007 season. Though mindful of why he was omitted, Johnson acknowledges it'll provide some added motivation for his senior campaign. "Anything to gain an edge is helpful," he explained while expressing his desire to stay healthy and have a good season.

"The key, however, is not reading too much into it. All we can do is just play," Johnson said.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham confirmed that senior wide receiver Marquis Wilson will not play for the Utes this season. He said a "combination of things" led to the decision. Wilson, who was charged with drunken driving and possession of alcohol by a minor in 2006, can use a redshirt year or transfer. If Wilson chooses the latter, Whittingham said he won't participate in two-a-days and will be restricted to scout team duty this fall ... Junior college transfers David Reed and Aiona Key are expected to join the Utes before camp opens on Aug. 3. Whittingham said they are on track to complete academic requirements ... Tight end Dudley LaPorte, another junior college transfer, may not enroll at Utah until January.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com