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Red All Over: Utah’s spot in Pac-12 preseason poll doesn’t mean much, but there is perception to consider

Utes were picked to finish second in the Pac-12 South on Tuesday ahead of the league’s annual football media day

(Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP) Utah wide receiver Britain Covey, right, and linebacker Devin Lloyd answer questions during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles.

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Trophies were not given out on Tuesday, Rose Bowl bids were not offered, College Football Playoff spots were not handed out.

The fact that the University of Utah was picked by a 40-member media panel to finish second in the Pac-12 South on Tuesday doesn’t mean anything, nor does the fact that Oregon was selected to win the North and USC the South. Preseason polls are momentary talking points, soon to be swept aside in favor of more tangible things like, you know, actual on-field stuff.

I have likely overthought this topic for years, but the only reason to pay any real attention to preseason polls is that they are an exercise in perception. Maybe you don’t think perception counts for anything, but I do.

This particular group of 40 Pac-12-covering media members, which included me, perceives the Utes as South contenders. The fact Utah received six first-place votes means the perception of those six media members is that the Utes will win the South. FYI, I was one of those six who voted Utah at No. 1.

So, this is where Utah is. Off a weird COVID season in 2020, with nearly everyone of note returning, the Utes are expected to be in the title mix. Isn’t that perception better than the alternative of no one thinking you’re going to be any good?

“We seem to be getting more respect in that poll than when we used to,” Kyle Whittingham told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday at Pac-12 media day. “I remember when we first entered the league, we were last or second-to-last for the first few years. I think we’ve made some headway, gotten some traction in this league, and so we’re getting a little more respect than we used to.”

What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise

• Now that I’ve covered Pac-12 media day for the first time, my chief takeaway is that the league should go back to a two-day format instead of cramming all 12 teams into one day. I understand why the league wants a one-day deal, but it doesn’t make it easier on anyone to do it that way.

• I spent Wednesday morning at Clovis High School near Fresno with 2022 Utah quarterback recruit Nate Johnson. Words will be forthcoming, but here’s a vague thought for now. The pandemic severely hindered the 2020 high school season in the state of California, but Johnson wound up benefiting from the situation.

• Most impressive showing at Pac-12 media day was Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards, who addressed the fact his program was under NCAA investigation by essentially no-commenting the situation without a question being asked. On a dime, he then flipped the topic to NIL. Veteran stuff there from Herm in the face of a still-growing inferno.

• I was not present for this on Tuesday, but Britain Covey said 2021 is “likely” his last year at Utah, although he hasn’t made a decision. That’s a thing, a big thing at that. Covey, who has been a terrific ambassador for this football program, is 24 years old with two years of collegiate eligibility left. Covey has said in the past he wants to take his shot at the NFL whenever his Utah career ends.

Your questions

Q: “If the QB situation is extremely tight, do you see Rising getting the nod since he has more eligibility left. Just as far as building for the future? Like another Troy Williams/Tyler Huntley battle.” — @Reilly_kb93

A: Fall camp is upon us, so there’s going to be an increase in QB questions. I get it, not my first rodeo in dealing with a QB battle.

If Brewer vs. Rising is extremely tight, I don’t think eligibility will have anything to do with it. Whittingham is paid a lot of money to make these decisions, and he’s going to make this one without considering who has how many years left to play.

To me, bringing eligibility concerns into this equation is pretty subjective, and really shouldn’t play any role at all. If true freshman Peter Costelli were in a position to win the job, spoiler, Whittingham would do it.

Q: “Any sport, any level, any activity, such as sports or concerts: What’s your favorite venue/arena/stadium you’ve been to? What’s your dream venue/arena/stadium?” — @corey_cheech

A: I’ll stick to sports here.

I still believe Madison Square Garden is the best big-game venue in all of basketball. I’ve seen some stuff there. In terms of making a pilgrimage on a work trip, the game atmosphere at the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium stands out, as does the Smith Center at the University of North Carolina.

Among the places/things I still hope to get to: Cameron Indoor Stadium for a Duke basketball game, a Final Four and a EuroLeague Final Four. That last one is more of a pipe dream, but who knows where life may take me.

Q: “What’s your go-to spot in LA for food/drink?” — @benwilkinson

A: I haven’t been in Los Angeles with enough downtime to formulate go-to drinking spots, which needs to be rectified, but I digress.

I really like the Mexican at Don Antonio’s, which is in West L.A., not far from the Santa Monica Airport. The Don Antonio’s Super Burrito is excellent, not to mention consistent, but split it up over two meals. It is gigantic.

If you think you’ve heard of Don Antonio’s, but are having trouble placing it, it was among Spencer and Heidi’s date spots on “The Hills.”

Yeah, I’m coming with semi-random pop culture references today.

Q: “A year ago, we seemed all set with Rising and Bentley, what makes this year any different?” — @BrockSpore

A: Am I missing something here? Do I really have to explain what’s different? If you’re paying attention, you already know what’s different.

For starters, Rising is coming off major surgery on his throwing shoulder. Whittingham has said multiple times that recently that Rising is fully healthy, fully cleared, no limitations, but he also slid in there on Tuesday in speaking with The Salt Lake Tribune at Pac-12 media day that Rising’s arm strength is not yet all the way back.

Charlie Brewer is not Jake Bentley. I will leave this topic there for the time being.

Random musings

• Stop complaining about the Salt Lake City Airport and how long it takes to get to a terminal now. That place is nice now, much nicer, much more modern than it was, yet still easy to navigate. We can all stand to get our steps in on a daily basis. It’s fine.

• On that topic, Fresno International Airport was a delight to deal with on Wednesday. Parking the rental car to getting through TSA took all of 10 minutes. I can’t imagine when I will be in Fresno again, but based on that experience, I won’t dread it.

• LAX is dead to me.

• Taking your shoes off an airplane should be an indictable offense.

• Getting back out on the road for work, and being able to goof on/talk about/complain about matters related to air travel is pretty awesome.

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