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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) leaves the field after the University of Utah is defeated by USC 42-24 in Pac-12 football Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Los Angeles.
While I’m taking my share of mockery now for having ranked Utah No. 1 the past several weeks, the fact is the Utes had earned it to that point. —Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel

The University of Utah football team fell to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll after losing to USC 42-24 on Saturday, but various writers have the Utes in different places in their power rankings.

A sampling:

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel was a big fan of the Utes over the first six weeks of the season, putting them No. 1 in the country for much of that stretch. After Kyle Whittingham's club fell to the Trojans, Mandel put them at No. 8.

"While I’m taking my share of mockery now for having ranked Utah No. 1 the past several weeks, the fact is the Utes had earned it to that point," Mandel wrote. "Now, following their blowout loss to USC, there is no team out there with an obviously deserving of No. 1 resume."

Even with the loss, Mandel says the Utes "still deserve credit for their 6-0 start against Sagarin’s No. 6-rated schedule."

Elsewhere, the ESPN Pac-12 blog dishes harshly on Utah. Kevin Gemmell puts it at No. 3 in his Pac-12 power rankings behind Stanford and Washington State, while Kyle Bonagura predicts the Utes will now go to the Alamo Bowl.

"No one was going to make it through the Pac-12 South undefeated," Gemmell writes. "And anyone who thought otherwise was embracing illusions. That said, Utah got beat in the worst way possible — they got out-muscled, something that doesn't happen often to a Kyle Whittingham team."

Is Jakob Poeltl the best center in the country?

Utah sophomore big man Jakob Poeltl went from a relative unknown to legitimate NBA prospect last season.

After choosing to return to Salt Lake City instead of entering the NBA draft, Poeltl is expected to be the focal point of what the Runnin' Utes do this season, especially after the departure of Delon Wright to the NBA. SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell wrote over the weekend that Poeltl could be the best center in all of college basketball.

In a breakdown of Utah's roster, O'Donnell writes that the key to Larry Krystkowiak and company making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament will be for Poeltl to draw enough attention that his teammates can thrive.

"There simply aren't going to be many opposing big men who will be able to check Poeltl one-on-one at this level," O'Donnell writes. "At seven feet and 240 pounds, he's the rare college center who can dominate both ends of the floor with NBA size."

Hayward a key to the Western Conference playoff race

Most NBA analysts are predicting a tight race for the final playoff spot or two in the Western Conference this season, with the Utah Jazz often in that conversation.

Many pundits also feel as though the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves will join the Jazz in the fight to the finish. In that vein, CBS Sports' Zach Harper recently examined how each of the three teams' key player can help push his squad to the postseason.

Harper identifies Utah's Gordon Hayward, Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe and Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins as key figures in the race, giving Hayward and the Jazz the edge.

"The fact is, the Jazz won't be in this position without Gordon Hayward — their max player — doing what max players do," Harper writes. "… If he and the Jazz live up to expectations in 2016, not only will we pretend we never questioned Hayward's max status, but we'll start lumping him in the group of max players that are deemed of that exclusive, higher-earning designation based on ability rather than that singular economic moment in negotiations."

Ryan McDonald is a sports reporter at DeseretNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanwmcdonald.