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Can the Utes win the Pac-12 South? Our reporter looks ahead in this preseason conference poll.

USC will likely be the favorite nationally, but there are reasons to believe Utah can punch its ticket to another title game

(Kory Mortensen | University of Utah Athletics) Members of the Utes defense participate in Utah football spring practice, Monday, March 15, 2021.

Do Kyle Whittingham’s Utes have what it takes to make it to their third conference championship game in four years?

Four months stand between these dog days of the college football offseason and the Pac-12 title game on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas. But with Pac-12 media day around the corner and fall camp looming, let’s take a peek into the future.

More than anything, a preseason poll is a conversation starter, something for fans to sink their teeth before the real thing kicks off. It is never to be taken too seriously, but at a minimum, it is something to discuss now as these final dog days of the college football offseason wind down.

I, along with a few dozen other media members, was asked to submit a Pac-12 preseason poll. Said poll will be released early next week as the league convenes for its football media day in Hollywood on July 27. Below is the ballot I submitted to the league office on Sunday morning.

NORTH DIVISION

1. Oregon: On paper, the most talented team in the league, but QB is one preseason question that needs answering. Circle Sept. 11 at Ohio State.

2. Washington: The Huskies were 3-1 in 2020, but were ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, and did not play in the Pac-12 title game as the North winner. Circle Sept. 11 at Michigan.

3. Stanford: That 12-win 2015 Rose Bowl season feels like a long time ago at this point for head coach David Shaw.

4. Cal: A trendy North pick a year ago, Golden Bears had big COVID troubles in finishing 1-3.

5. Washington State: Second-year head coach Nick Rolovich has a QB competition coming for his run-and-shoot offense, but the defense is the chief concern after yielding 462 yards per game last season.

6. Oregon State: The Beavers’ schedule will not help with a trip to USC, a visit from Washington, and a trip to Washington State to open conference play.

SOUTH DIVISION

1. Utah: Veteran personnel, key NCAA Transfer portal additions, no obvious depth holes. If Charlie Brewer is the starting quarterback, he adds an element to the most important position on the field Kyle Whittingham has never had.

2. USC: When Kedon Slovis has it going, he is the best quarterback in the Pac-12. Trojans will be the majority pick, both among Pac-12 media and nationally, to win the South Division.

3. Arizona State: A trendy pick to win the South in 2020, Sun Devils will be that again despite an onslaught of allegations for recruiting violations, for which the NCAA will be getting involved.

4. UCLA: Is year four where Chip Kelly gets something done in Westwood? Bruins are 10-21 over the last three seasons but return a ton, including All-Pac-12 quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

5. Colorado: The fact the Buffaloes are slotted fifth here may speak to the depth of the division. Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard returns, but Sam Noyer’s June transfer at QB is a big deal. Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout, redshirt freshman Brenden Lewis and freshman Drew Carter are vying for that spot.

6. Arizona: It’s going to be a long road for first-year head coach Jedd Fisch.

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