While no one has pegged the Bruins as a conference title favorite, the blue and gold appear to be in the top tier of Pac-12 contenders heading into 2022.
The conference’s annual preseason media poll was released Thursday afternoon ahead of Pac-12 Football Media Day, with UCLA football not earning any votes to take home the conference crown. The Bruins did place fourth overall, though, riding their 8-4 regular season in 2021 to jump four spots above their eighth-place preseason ranking from last year.
Utah received 26 of the 33 first-place votes, while USC earned five and Oregon earned two. The Ducks finished above the Trojans in total points, however, vaulting them up to the second-place position.
UCLA earned 289 points in the poll, compared to Utah’s 384, Oregon’s 345 and USC’s 341. Oregon State earned 246 points, while Washington had 212, Washington State had 177, Stanford had 159, Cal had 154, Arizona State had 123, Arizona had 86 and Colorado had 58.
The full voting breakdown of the poll was not released, so it is unknown if any media members had the Bruins slotted in as the conference runner-up.
The 2022 season will mark the first campaign in which division winners will not decide the Pac-12 Football Championship Game participants. Instead, the two teams with the best conference records – regardless of division – will face off in the title game.
Thus, division winners were not predicted by members of the media like they had been in the past.
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Although UCLA was picked to win the South Division in 2013, 2014 and 2016, the Bruins have not been the media’s preseason championship favorite since 1998 – the same year as their most recent conference title. Since Chip Kelly took over as head coach, UCLA has been picked to finish tied for sixth once, seventh twice and eighth once before crawling up to fourth for 2022.
The projected fourth-place finisher in 2021 was Utah, which went on to win the Pac-12 and narrowly lose the Rose Bowl to No. 6 Ohio State.
UCLA owns +1200 odds to win the Pac-12 in 2022, according to BetOnline. That once again puts the Bruins in a distant fourth to USC, Oregon and Utah, who boast +210, +225 and +250 odds to win the conference, respectively.
The preseason All-Pac-12 Teams were released Tuesday, and running back Zach Charbonnet was the Bruins’ lone representative on the First Team. Wide receiver Jake Bobo and linebacker Darius Muasau made the Second Team, but UCLA’s six total honorees were tied for just the eighth-most in the conference.
In 2021, the Pac-12 released its preseason media poll and all-conference teams the morning of media day, but they elected to instead spread out the announcements in 2022.
Pac-12 Football Media Day will begin Friday morning at 8 a.m., with Kelly, offensive lineman Jon Gaines II and safety Stephan Blaylock slated to represent the Bruins in Los Angeles. UCLA will take center stage at 3 p.m., and the press conferences will air live on Pac-12 Networks.
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