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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham coaches against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Utah won 24-0.
I don’t think any of the preseason matters. But we’ll see when the season comes. —Filipo Mokofisi

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Utah's football team received its highest projected finish since 2012 in the Pac-12’s annual preseason media poll. As was the case that year, the Utes were picked second in the South Division — trailing only conference favorite USC.

“It doesn’t mean a whole lot in the final analysis but I think it speaks to what our players have been able to accomplish the last few years and the direction we’re heading,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “So I think it’s a show of respect to our players and our program. And so, yeah, I think it’s a positive thing.”

Even so, the Utes — at least senior linemen Salesi Uhatafe and Filipo Mokofisi, who joined Whittingham at Pac-12 Media Days — aren’t putting a lot of stock in it.

“I don’t think any of the preseason matters,” Mokofisi said. “But we’ll see when the season comes.”

Although Mokofisi acknowledged that being second in the poll for the first time since 2012 is “pretty cool,” he added that it doesn’t mean anything until the team does something — like finish first instead.

Uhatafe also said he doesn’t pay too much attention to preseason polls.

“I’m more focused on what we can control,” he explained.

USC received 49 of a possible 52 first-place votes. Utah, UCLA and Colorado each received one and were predicted to end up second, third and fourth, respectively. Arizona State and Arizona round out the Pac-12 South.

In the North Division, defending Pac-12 champion Washington netted 49 top votes. Stanford, Washington State and Oregon had one apiece and followed the Huskies in projected order of finish. Oregon State and California were ticketed fifth and sixth overall.

The Trojans were the choice of 28 voters to also win the Pac-12 Championship Game. Washington was second with 22, while Oregon and Utah each received one vote.

All 12 head coaches and two players from each team are attending the two-day media event at Hollywood & Highland.

Mokofisi expressed excitement, nervousness and all kinds of emotions as the function got underway. The Utes did network television spots Wednesday afternoon and will meet the full press corps on Thursday.

“I’m not very much of an interview person,” Mokofisi said. “So we’ll see how this goes.”

Uhafafe also expressed some light-hearted concern.

“I’m excited,” he noted. “I just hope I don’t stutter too much in my interviews.”

Dave Hirsch, Pac-12 vice president, communications, said that more than 300 press credentials have been issued. There are 18 stops of radio/TV rows, plus a live broadcast set near the main stage.

“It’s football season,” Hirsch said of the hype. “It’s what we do.”