The TribUte newsletter: The one where Utah goes to Pac-12 media day

Head coach Kyle Whittingham, quarterback Cam Rising, and cornerback Clark Phillips III will represent the program Friday morning at The Novo in Hollywood

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cameron Rising as the Utah Utes practice leading up to the Rose Bowl at Harbor College in Wilmington, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.

Los Angeles • The Pac-12 released its preseason poll on Thursday afternoon, ahead of the conference’s media day on Friday.

As expected, reigning Pac-12 champion Utah was the consensus favorite to win the league with Oregon coming in at No. 2. Keep in mind that the Pac-12 has gotten rid of divisions, so voters were asked to select 1-12, not 1-6 for the North and 1-6 for the South.

Even with the arrival of Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams at USC, the months-long assumption had been that Utah would be the poll favorite, which got me thinking about something during the flight down to L.A. this week.

Given what has transpired with USC, UCLA and the Pac-12 over the last month, the Utes’ status as the perceived conference favorite, combined with its offseason status as a potential College Football Playoff crasher, will be taking a backseat on Friday.

Granted, Pac-12 media day is in Los Angeles, so the hoard of local media wasn’t going to be overly interested in Utes matters anyway, but that notion is really ten-fold now as Riley and UCLA head coach Chip Kelly make their first public comments on Friday since the news of their respective moves to the Big Ten in 2024 broke on June 30.

With that, the question sort of becomes, well, what are we asking Kyle Whittingham, Cam Rising and Clark Phillips III when they meet the media on Friday morning?

The main media day session with the head coach and players is not for the day-to-day minutiae, it’s for the big-picture stuff you might not normally ask on an average day as a beat writer. There is certainly a big-picture topic out there to be asked about, so really, what are we asking these guys Friday?

Whittingham is no stranger to conference realignment, having shepherded Utah from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 more than a decade ago. Times have changed, but the point hasn’t.

Kyle, what are USC and UCLA facing as they venture into uncharted waters?

Rising and Phillips III will no longer be in college when UCLA and USC leave. Maybe their opinions don’t matter here, or maybe they bring a unique perspective. Rising is from Ventura, an hour from LA. Phillips III is from Lakewood, just 20 minutes away.

Guys, as Southern California natives who grew up playing football, how weird or unnatural was it to hear that USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12?

Does the USC game against the Utes on Oct. 15 become an even bigger deal now since it’s the last time the Trojans will play at Rice-Eccles Stadium as a Pac-12 member?

Bank on this: Someone is going to ask Rising and Phillips III a question specific to realignment. Before anyone does that, please don’t do that. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, but specifically my time.

Thank you, let’s have some fun on Friday.

Other things on my mind

• I’m willing to bet this is the last time Pac-12 media day is in Los Angeles. You’re losing this media market within your conference footprint, so why bother coming here? I’m willing to bet Las Vegas gets the nod, but spreading it around within the footprint makes some sense, too.

• Fall camp starts next week, which means we’ll have some new talking points instead of the same things we’ve been talking about since January. Don’t worry, though. It’ll be Aug. 20 soon enough, camp coverage will start to wear on everyone, including me, and we will then start counting the seconds until kickoff at The Swamp.

I took an early look at Utah’s 2023 recruiting class.

• Abolish LAX, fly into Burbank. It’s that simple.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.