Ute football: One voter says Utes are No. 1
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Utes No. 1? Who says?

Forget Texas, even if it did just beat Oklahoma, and forget all those highly rated quarterbacks in the Big 12, too. The SEC and all those tough defenses in that conference? Forget them, too. Don't even bother to look at the Pac-10; we all know it ranks below the Mountain West.

Who really has the best team in college football? The Utah Utes, at least in the eyes of one voter for the Harris Interactive Poll.

The Utes (7-0, 3-0), who actually dropped a spot to No. 14 in the poll this week, received a first-place vote from one of the 114 voters.

Surprised? Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was when asked about the poll at Monday's press conference.

"Who votes for that?" he asked. "I know it wasn't me, and as far as I know, my mom doesn't have a vote in that. That is news to me. I didn't realize that. I guess somebody out there loves us. I'll take it."

The voter with the generosity toward the Utes is a mystery since voters aren't required to make their ballots public.

Texas received 72 first-place votes followed by Alabama (37) and Penn State (6).

While they maintain they don't follow the national polls and say they focus only on their opponents, Utah's players do know their place in the national college football landscape and joked about the vote.

The Utes are just one of 10 unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but No. 1?

"We've worked real hard the last couple of weeks, we are the No. 1 team," said corner Sean Smith as he giggled.

The last time the Utes received any first-place votes was during their 2004 season.

While the vote in Utah's favor was humorous, where the Utes rank in the overall standings is serious business.

The Harris Interactive Poll counts as one-third of the formula used in the Bowl Championship Series standings. Also factoring in is the USA Today Coaches Poll and the compilation of six computer rankings.

The first BCS rankings will be announced Sunday. Teams that aren't in BCS conferences such as the Utes and BYU must finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings to receive an automatic bid into the BCS.

The Utes, who play Colorado State (3-3, 1-1) Saturday, didn't move up in the polls following their 40-7 win over Wyoming although several ranked teams ahead of them lost.

"We can't focus on that," quarterback Brian Johnson said. "I think the natural order of things will start to play itself out as we get into conference seasons and the teams ahead of us, the Big 12 and the SEC, will start beating up on each other."

The Harris Interactive poll started in 2005 and consists of a panel of former players, coaches, administrators and members of the media. Panelists are randomly selected from more than 300 nominations submitted by conference offices and independent schools. The panel is designed to give each of the 11 conferences and independent schools such as Notre Dame equal representation.

Among the 2008 voters with ties to the MWC are former BYU athletic director Rondo Fehlberg, former Air Force player Chad Hennings, former Utah athletic director Jim Copeland and the mtn. network analyst Tim Neverett.

Briefly: The Utes aren't quite in as bad of shape as they thought following Saturday's game. Linebacker Kepa Gaison (foot) will miss three to four weeks with a foot injury but others should play, Whittingham said. Other notable injuries from Saturday include defensive end Koa Misi (hip flexor), safety Terrell Cole (left leg), tight end Neli A'asa (stinger) and special teams player Trevor Moss (concussion), center Zane Taylor (ankle) and safety Joe Dale (back).

lwodraska@sltrib.com