Despite having nearly every Pac-12 Conference media member pick the Utah Utes to finish near the bottom of the South Division standings on Wednesday, July 23, the football team, in particular head coach Kyle Whittingham, could care less.
The Utes don't care about UCLA gobbling up 231 votes--even if the Bruins didn't get one first-place vote. There's a first, right? The team that newspapers, radio and TV affiliates of the conference picked to finish first in the division, did not receive one single, solitary vote of confidence to win the conference title.
But wait, there's more. The Utes also don't give a Whit whether USC or Arizona State, the teams below UCLA, got the first-place votes (one each) that the media couldn't bother to give to UCLA. (For the record, USC received 181 votes, compared to 163 for Arizona State.)
But the Utes do care about Arizona finishing above them in the preseason standings with 119 votes--compared to the Utes' 82. The guy who actually does give a Whit--the conference media's nickname for Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham--had plenty to say about the Wildcats winning last season in Tucson.
"It was frustrating. I thought our guys were able to compete. They fought all the way and were able to get the win against Colorado [later in the season], so it's frustrating. Disappointing. But I thought they came through it as well as they could have pulled through," Whittingham said Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Day.
In one sense, you can't blame the Utes for taking such a defiant stance after finishing at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 South Division standings for the past two years. But, to conference media the Utes still look like skinny little minnows trying to survive in an ocean filled with giant man-eating sharks.
To the ones who write on, report on and revisit every little detail of the Utah Utes short life in the Pac-12, the Utes have indeed been on a two-year mission to lose games that for the most part, are close to win--but not quite victories that propel them to bowl games and bigger paydays.
In short, the media believes the Utes are only 41 votes better than last-place Colorado in the South Division. That vote of no-confidence from the newspapers, TV and radio that represent the conference must sting, right? Not as much as you might think, according to Utah senior wide receiver Dres Anderson.
“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 Wednesday in an interview with the Deseret News. “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.”