Week 1 of the college football schedule brings us a very interesting matchup between the defending Pac-12 champions and a traditional SEC down on their luck.
No. 7 Utah travels across the country to take on Florida and first-year coach Billy Napier in a game that will tell us a lot about where these teams are headed.
Can the Pac-12 match the speed of the SEC? Can Florida beat a quality non-conference opponent and start the Napier era off on the right foot?
Here’s what you need to know about the Utah vs. Florida matchup in the Swamp.
Florida vs. Utah Preview, Prediction
how to look
When: Saturday, September 3
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Television: ESPN network
Florida vs. Utah odds
Line: Utah -2.5
Money Line: UT -140, UF +120
FPI Choice: Florida 52.1%
Florida vs. Utah: what to watch
1. Utah’s 1-2 blow. Cameron Rising and Tavion Thomas are a very difficult combination to beat. Rising was a 64% passer last season with 20 TDs and just five picks, while Thomas added a school-record 21 rushing touchdowns, third-most in the FBS last season, averaging 5.4 ypc. Bringing back that core, which tortured Ohio State’s D in the Rose Bowl, is vital in a cross-country opener, especially against an improved Gator front.
2. The experience of Anthony Richardson. The Florida quarterback put the ball in the air 64 times a year ago, completing 59.4% of those passes, racking up 930 total yards of offense, including 401 rushing and 529 passing. He looked great in the spring game, scoring twice with his arm and once with his legs, having only a few incomplete passes, over 200 passing yards and no turnovers. AR is a dynamic dual threat who is already earning high marks in the NFL Draft and may emerge as one of the best players in the SEC this season.
3. Utah can play defense. Losing linebackers Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell is important, but don’t count out the rest of the Utes’ blockers, especially after adding Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate at LB. Throw in some huge interior linemen and a fast-moving secondary and, apart from Georgia, this could be the best D the Gators play this year.
Utah vs. Florida: Fast Facts
+ Florida has won four straight season starts heading into this year’s game
+ Utah is 77-50-1 all-time in season starts, but has only lost two in the last 15 years
+ Florida owns the longest active home win streak in the season opener on FBS (32) since 1990
+ Utah ranked 8th in college football in third-down conversions and 7th in first-down offense
+ Florida ranked 4th in FBS with 5.5 rushing yards last season
+ 32 of Utah’s 61 offensive touchdowns (52%) came on drives of 70 yards or more
+ Florida QB Anthony Richardson ranked ninth among FBS passers with 57.3 rushing yards per game and his 7.9 ypc ranked fourth
+ Utah was one of three FBS teams with three RBs who had 450+ yards
+ Florida was one of 4 Power Five teams to average over 460 yards per game and 200 rushing yards per game
+ Utah scored 30-plus points in 11 of 14 games last fall, including 35-plus points in eight of its last nine
+ Florida allowed just 14 total sacks in 2021, fifth fewest in FBS
+ Tavion Thomas ranked 3rd in FBS with 21 rushing touchdowns and was one of only 6 backs with 20+ rushing scores
+ Florida outsacked opponents by a margin of plus-23 and Utah by plus-29
+ Utah O line ranked 4th nationally allowing 0.93 sacks per game and 13 sacks overall
utah is the hot pick of the preseason after their 10-win outing as Pac-12 champions, and it’s hard to get a sense of what Florida is like right now.
Usually in games like this you hear a lot about “SEC speed”. As it should, considering the league’s abundance of quick and agile players, even on its mid-tier teams, who always show up in these non-conference games.
Utah has the superior defensive unit and a much more proven offensive offense, but you could argue the Gators have the superior athletes — and that’s who wins the games.
Utah should be the more dominant presence down the line on both sides, but the Gators have a battery of targets to use on short and medium plays, including a talented and well-stocked group of pass catchers behind, combined with the athleticism and pace of Richardson. who can throw the Utes off schedule.
A West Coast team far from home, in harsh weather, and one that hasn’t performed well on the road against winning teams recently, could find itself in a much closer game than it anticipated.
College Football Venue Prediction: Florida 30, Utah 27
According to AP Top 25 poll
- Ohio State
- notre dame
- Texas A&M
- oklahoma state
- State of North Carolina
- state of michigan
- old lady
- forest stele
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