The Florida Gators play host to No. 7 Utah during the Week 1 action on Saturday, giving us one of the more interesting nonconference showdowns that we will see this season. The Utes enter one of their most anticipated seasons in program history, but entering The Swamp means facing one of the tightest point-spreads of any top-10 team this week.
The Gators enter a new era under first-year coach Billy Napier, who led Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns to a 33-5 record over the last three seasons. However, Napier has work to do building Florida up from a disappointing 6-7 effort in 2021 that went off the rails in the latter half of the season.
The Utes are fresh off one of the greatest seasons in program history. After starting 1-2, Utah rattled off nine victories over the next 10 games en route to winning its first Pac-12 championship. Running back Tavion Thomas ranked among the national leaders in rushing touchdowns with 21 scores and 1,108 yards in a breakout season.
Florida and Utah have only played once before in program history. The Gators beat the Utes 38-29 on Nov. 19, 1977, when Utah was a member of the WAC. However, both programs have reached national prominence over the last 45 years.
Florida vs. Utah: Need to know
Tight End U: Few teams use their tight ends as dynamically as Utah. Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid combined for 86 catches and 1,121 yards receiving with 14 touchdowns during a sensational 2021 campaign. Third-string Cole Fotheringham also saw 561 snaps, though primarily as a run blocker. Whittingham deploys his versatile tight ends in several ways to create mismatches against opposing defenses. In some ways, the versatility and physicality mimics what Florida could look like years into Napier’s tenure.
A new quarterback emerges: Gainesville native Anthony Richardson showed incredible flashes during his freshman season at Florida, throwing for 529 yards, running for 401 yards and posting nine total touchdowns in limited appearances. Now, the reins have been handed to Richardson for the opener. He will be relied on early and often as the Gators replace their top receiver and top three rushers against one of the nation’s most physical defenses.
Key Pac-12 moment: The Pac-12 has not put a team into the College Football Playoff since 2016, and Utah remains the league’s top contender heading into the season. However, traveling to face a highly skilled Florida squad is one of the most visible games of the season. While Florida does not rank among the top teams in the SEC, a win over a talented opponent can do wonders for the Utes in the rankings — just look at UCLA last season after beating LSU. This is a must-win game not just for Utah, but for the entire Pac-12.
How to watch Florida vs. Utah live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 3 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Florida vs. Utah prediction, picks
Featured Game | Florida Gators vs. Utah Utes
The Utes head into a culmination year right as Florida enters Year 1 of a rebuild, and the stakes have never been higher for the Utes. While there’s a major recruiting gap between these two programs, Utah has not shied away from recruiting stars in the past. In the Rose Bowl, Utah took Ohio State to the limit. The Utes also crushed Oregon twice to ruin the Ducks’ College Football Playoff case. Chalk this one up as a historic victory for the program. Prediction: Utah -3
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