Red All Over: Are the Utes truly the Pac-12 football favorites? Yes, as opponents will view them.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah Utes place kicker Matt Gay (97) attempts and makes a field goal from the 50 yard line. Utah Utes host the Oregon Ducks, NCAA football at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday Nov. 10, 2018.
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The only aspect of the Pac-12 South's official preseason poll that I wondered about this summer was whether Utah's football team would be a unanimous pick to repeat as the division champion.
That almost happened. The Utes received 33 of the 35 votes from a media panel
, consisting of voters (including me) who cover each athletic program in the conference.
The part I overlooked was how North powers Oregon and Washington would split votes, making Utah the choice to win the conference championship game. Here’s how it worked: The Ducks and Huskies each got 17 first-place votes in the North. So that created the opportunity for 33 voters to pick Utah as the Pac-12 champ, and 12 did so. Of the 34 who could pick Oregon or Washington, 20 did so. But because only 11 chose Oregon specifically, Utah became the official pick.
What does that mean? The Utes will have to live up to that status in every game, in or out of conference play. Any team that knocks them off will have beaten “the Pac-12 favorites.”
No matter how the poll math works, that's Utah's challenge.
So this will be a very interesting year, with preseason camp beginning Wednesday. Tribune columnist Gordon Monson says the Utes deserve to be viewed differently
The Pac-12 is moving the football championship game
to Las Vegas, after one more contest in December in Santa Clara, Calif.
This week, I updated receiver Britain Covey’s rehabilitation
from knee surgery. He’s vital to Utah’s offense and wants to play in the Aug. 29 opener at BYU, but is being realistic about the process.
In men’s basketball, the Utes have received the framework of their 2019-20 Pac-12 schedule
, starting with Oregon and Oregon State at home.
CBS Sports points out how Utah joins an impressive list of Power Five conference favorites (CBS
The Oregonian follows the letter of the poll, interpreting the results as Oregon’s being picked to lose to Utah in the championship game (ORE
Dirk Facer of the Deseret News has Ute endorsements from other Pac-12 coaches (DNEWS
• Utah athletic director Mark Harlan has started a four-year term as a member of the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee, representing the Pac-12.
The group “maintains appropriate oversight of football for both the Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision and enhances the development of the sport by advancing recommendations related to regular-season and postseason football. The committee prioritizes enhancement of the student-athlete educational experience [academically and athletically, promoting student-athletes' personal growth and leadership development,” according to the NCAA's news release.
Harlan said, “College football is so important, not only to intercollegiate athletics but to our country, and there is incredible passion for the sport. To be part of expanding on the mission of improving the game and focusing on student-athletes is something I’m excited to do.”
• Four Ute baseball players are spending the summer in Corvallis, Ore., home of Oregon State. They’re playing for the appropriately named Corvallis Knights. The team is coached by Brooke Knight, the father of Ute outfielder Briley Knight, who’s batting .368 and joined Utah catcher Zack Moeller (.333) on the West Coast League’s all-star team. Utah’s David Watson and Nick Caviglia also play for the Knights, among 14 Utes on various teams around the country.