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Utah football notebook: Whittingham would like to see a level playing field

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham smiles while watching a tribute video to his 100 wins as head coach of Utah after an NCAA college football game against Arizona in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2016. Utah battled back from a first-half deficit to defe
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham smiles while watching a tribute video to his 100 wins as head coach of Utah after an NCAA college football game against Arizona in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2016. Utah battled back from a first-half deficit to defeat Arizona 36-23.
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SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to non-conference scheduling, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would like to see some sort of standardization. Perhaps, he added, the Power-5 conferences could provide some parameters or guidelines.

“As I’ve said before you try to strike a balance in your non-conference schedule,” Whittingham said. “You don’t want to overschedule. You don’t want to underschedule.”

It’s become a topic of conversation since the College Football Playoff selections were made. Pac-12 champion Washington got in despite criticism for a non-conference schedule comprised of Idaho, Portland State and Rutgers. Ohio State, meanwhile, was praised for playing and winning at Oklahoma. It was reportedly a major reason the Buckeyes were included despite not winning their division in the Big Ten.

Whittingham said the debate doesn’t matter as long as there’s a level playing field. He pointed out there’s a different mentality for teams with four non-conference games instead of three.

“But no matter what, I think it’s striking that balance that’s right for your program,” Whittingham explained.

As for Washington, Whittingham thinks it’s great the Huskies made the cut.

“I thought it would have been a shame had they not been included,” he said.

AND THE WINNER IS . . . : Utah’s bid for a third consecutive Ray Guy Award will be decided Thursday (5 p.m., ESPN) at The Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Atlanta. Tom Hackett won the award as the nation’s top punter the past two years and sophomore Mitch Wishnowsky is one of three finalists (along with Michael Dickson of Texas and Cameron Johnston of Ohio State) for this season’s accolade. Whittingham is accompanying Wishnowsky to the show in Georgia.

NATIONAL HONORS: Wishnowsky has been named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News. It's the eighth time in program history that a player has received such recognition. The others are defensive back Roy Jefferson (1964), punter Marv Bateman (1970 and 1971), return specialist Erroll Tucker (1985), defensive back Eric Weddle (2006), kicker Louie Sakoda (2008), return specialist Kaelin Clay (2014) and Hackett (2015).

GRANDPA COACHES: Former Utah coach Urban Meyer of Ohio State became a grandfather for the first time on Sunday. His oldest daughter, Nicki, gave birth to a boy, Troy Dennis, hours before the Buckeyes were chosen to participate in the College Football Playoff.

Whittingham, who became a grandpa earlier this year when his daughter Melissa gave birth to a baby girl, Remi Dawson, spoke with Meyer last week about having grandchildren.

“I just told him it’s going to be the neatest thing you’ve ever experienced,” Whittingham said, then noted that grandmothers get really excited about it, too. “But it’s really neat. As good as you think it’s going to be, it’s even better.”

ACROSS THE LINE: Utah had five defensive linemen receive all-conference honors from the Pac-12. Hunter Dimick was a first-team selection, while Lowell Lotulelei, Filipo Mokofisi, Pasoni Tasini and Pita Taumoepenu garnered honorable mention recognition.

“That’s just a testament,” Dimick said. “If you’re a d-lineman this is the place to come get developed.”

BEST WISHES: Offensive lineman Isaac Asiata wishes former teammate Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, who transferred to USC, well as the Trojans prepare to face Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

“I’m excited for Stevie. That guy works his tail off,” Asiata said. “. . . I hope he goes and just takes it to those guys in the Rose Bowl.”

Tu’ikolovatu earned second-team all-conference honors this season.

THIS AND THAT: Whittingham was asked about a variety of topics at a press conference on Monday. He acknowledged being in the midst of evaluating the season — having reviewed all the game film at least once following the finale at Colorado.

When asked about any possible changes involving his coaching staff, Whittingham reiterated that everything is in an evaluation process and that he’s “not ready to make any comments about that.”

Word of a possible 10th assistant coach being added to staffs nationwide in the next year is something that Whittingham thinks would be a positive.

On the negative, Whittingham weighed in on the firing of Oregon coach Mark Helfrich. Two years after leading the Ducks to the national championship game, Helfrich was let go after a 4-8 season.

“It just shows you what a volatile profession it is,” said Whittingham, who added that Helfrich is “a heck of a football coach.”

Whittingham also confirmed that two or three underclassmen, who are pondering early entry into the NFL draft, have begun the process of seeking input from the league’s advisory committee. He declined to name the players. However, logical candidates include offensive lineman Garett Bolles, safety Marcus Williams and Lotulelei.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that linebacker Sunia Tauteoli and punt returner Boobie Hobbs should be back from injuries and play in the bowl game. Offensive lineman Sam Tevi should be near 100 percent healthy as well . . . Foster Farms Bowl Bowl coaches Whittingham and Tom Allen of Indiana are scheduled to be in San Francisco Monday for a press conference . . . Asiata has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl . . . Lotulelei was a finalist for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year.

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer