Polls are the polls. It’s what people say. It’ what everyone thinks. Like I’ve said before, the two years our record has shown it and we’ve kind of pout ourselves in that position. So the only thing we can do now is gather as a team and prove the world wrong. —Utah defensive end Nate Orchard, on Utah being predicted to finish 5th in the Pac-12 South Division
HOLLYWOOD, California — After back-to-back 5-7 seasons, Utah didn’t command a lot of star power in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. The Utes, in fact, wound up being more like understudies or extras in the annual sampling — finishing fifth in the South, ahead of Colorado but well behind UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Arizona.
“We don’t pay much attention to it,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said at Pac-12 Football Media Days at Paramount Studios. “Really, it’s a product of what happened last season, for the most part, and every year is a new opportunity.”
The Utes, who open the season Aug. 28 against Idaho State, are eager to turn things around.
Wide receiver Dres Anderson and defensive end Nate Orchard, who are representing Utah at the meetings, made that clear upon hearing the poll results.
“I don’t care at all. You’ve got to play every game. Everything, all these polls and stuff that come out before the season, it means nothing,” Anderson said. “Because when you’re playing in a game, we’re not playing to be fifth we’re playing to be first. So we’re going to play hungry and we’re going to play to win.”
Anderson added that the Utes aren’t going to play down to anybody.
“We could have been (picked) first and I’m still motivated,” Anderson said. “None of these things are going to unmotivate me, to make me feel I don’t have to play as hard or I’m not as hungry. So I’m always going to be ready to just showcase our team.”
Orchard also isn’t putting much stock in the preseason rankings.
“Polls are the polls. It’s what people say. It’ what everyone thinks,” Orchard noted. “Like I’ve said before, the two years our record has shown it and we’ve kind of put ourselves in that position. So the only thing we can do now is gather as a team and prove the world wrong.”
Orchard said the Utes enjoy the role of the underdog.
“We like that. We like that a lot,” he explained. “Teams will look down on us and we’ll definitely come out swinging and shock the world.”
UCLA is the heavy favorite to win the division. The Bruins received 37 first-place votes. Second-place USC and third-place Arizona State netted one each.
In the North, projected conference champion Oregon was the top choice of 37 voters. Stanford garnered the other two first-place picks. Washington, Oregon State, Washington State and California round out the projected order of finish.
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2014 Pac-12 football preseason media poll
1. Oregon (37) — 232
2. Stanford (2) — 192
3. Washington — 142
4. Oregon State — 125
5. Washington State — 87
6. California — 41
1. UCLA (37) — 231
2. USC (1) — 181
3. Arizona State (1) — 163
4. Arizona — 119
5. Utah — 82
6. Colorado — 43
Pac-12 champion: Oregon (24), UCLA (13), Stanford (1), USC (1)