Florida vs. Utah: Prediction, pick, odds, spread, football game time, watch live stream, TV channel

By OnlyGators.com Staff
August 31, 2023
Florida vs. Utah: Prediction, pick, odds, spread, football game time, watch live stream, TV channel

Image Credit: Michael Nash

Looking to kick off a season with a signature win for the second straight year, the Florida Gators take an extremely rare Thursday trip to face the No. 14 Utah Utes. Florida rallied to beat Utah 29-26 last season in The Swamp, the first game of a home-and-home series that is now set to conclude.

The first of four straight night games the Gators will play to begin the campaign, Thursday’s contest marks the first time Florida will play a regular-season game on that day of the week in more than 30 years (at Mississippi State on Oct. 1, 1992). The last time the Gators took the field on a Thursday at all was when they won the 2009 BCS Championship Game to conclude the 2008 season.

Thursday’s game is also the second time in the last five seasons that the Gators’ opening game has been pushed earlier than previously scheduled. Florida saw its Week 1 game against Miami played in Orlando pushed forward seven days to Week 0 in 2019.

This year’s marks the first nonconference true road game the Gators have played outside the Sunshine State since 1991. Florida also opening the season with a true road game for the first time since 1987. It is also the furthest West that UF has played a regular-season game in 34 years and the first time Florida has began a season against a Pac-12 team since 1983. All this as head coach Billy Napier looks to turn the Gators around in his second year at the helm.

What will go down Thursday night as the Gators visit the Utes? Let’s find out. Don’t miss our Florida football notebook covering Napier’s thoughts entering Week 1 as well as our Summer School feature wrapping up the offseason and the Week 1 depth chart.

Tale of the tape

Florida GatorsNo. 14 Utah Utes
Head coachBilly NapierKyle Whittingham

Injuries and absences

Questionable (3): C Kingsley Eguakun (knee), DL Chris McClellan (lower body), QB Jack Miller (shoulder)
Out (1): TE Keon Zipperer (lower body)
Out for season (2): DL Justus Boone (knee), RB Cam Carroll (knee)

Viewing information

Date: Thursday, Aug. 31 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium — Salt Lake City, Utah [51,444]

TV: ESPN (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe)
Live stream: ESPN+ | SiriusXM: 133/190 | Radio: WRUF, TuneIn
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Game notes

» Florida is 2-0 all-time against Utah with wins in 2022 and 1977.
» The Gators are 7-5-1 all-time against Pac-12 opponents, while the Utes are 1-7 against SEC opponents.
» Utah last season was Florida’s first Pac-12 opponent since 1989, while UF was Utah’s first SEC opponent since 2008. (Florida ended up also playing Oregon State in bowl season.)
» The Gators are 7-2-1 against Pac-12 teams in the regular season; the Utes are 0-7 against SEC teams in the regular season. Thursday night will be the first time Utah hosts an SEC team in program history.
» Florida’s lone season-opening loss dating back to 1989 came in 2017 during a neutral-site contest with Michigan in Dallas.
» Napier is 2-2 in season openers as a head coach. This will be the fourth time he faces a Power Five opponent away from home to start the season.
» The Gators opens the season unranked in either of the main top 25 polls for the second straight year and third time in seven seasons.
» Florida is 17-4 against nonconference opponents since 2018 with two straight losses.
» The Gators are 7-15 against ranked opponents (2-5 vs. top five teams, 5-7 vs. top 10 teams) and 32-10 against unranked opponents since 2018. They went 1-5 against AP Top 25 teams last season.
» Florida has scored in 436 consecutive games, an NCAA record.

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida +5 | O/U: 44.5

The 2022 season was filled with impossible-to-pick games involving the Gators due to their tremendous inconsistency from week to week. As such, we have no idea what 2023 is going to bring. In terms of Thursday night’s matchup with the Utes, though, we do have some known quantities.

Chief among them is that Utah starting quarterback Cameron Rising is not playing, whereas Florida starting QB Graham Mertz is active for his first game but coming off a none-to-stellar collegiate career to this point. The Gators may be without their starting center — the most veteran player on the offensive line — and the Utes may be without their playmaking tight end.

Napier led Florida to a 3-point win in this matchup a year ago, but there’s no doubt UF had the advantages in that game, namely from a hosting standpoint. This year, the Gators will be facing a raucous environment playing in a stadium with an elevation of 4,265 feet above see level — higher than most major cities except Denver and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

And yet, for Utah’s 26-game home winning streak and its back-to-back Pac-12 championships, they remain 0-7 against SEC teams in regular-season play. The Gators, meanwhile, are 7-2-1 against Pac-12 opponents in the regular season and have won all but one opening-week game since 1989. Plus, Napier will be on the road facing a Power Five opponent to open a season for the fourth time in five years as a head coach; he knows what’s ahead.

There is simply no knowing what’s to come Thursday night, and this would not be a game upon which a wager is recommended. However, we don’t have the benefit of not giving you a pick in this section. Napier went 5-0 against the spread as an underdog last season and holds a 10-1 mark in such a position over his last three seasons. With Rising playing, Utah giving a touchdown would have been the pick here; however, with Rising out, Gators’ attacking defense and strong running game should be enough to stay within the number.

There’s about two points of value here, and Florida was able to read plenty of bulletin-board material in the offseason to be juiced for this game, regardless of the travel difficulties or injury issues. Regarding the total, scoring has been down in college football through Week 0 due to the new clock rules, so we’ll start going under with the expectation of a run-heavy attack on both sides.

2022 records: ATS picks 5-8 | O/U picks 9-4

Odds and ends

» Uniforms: Florida will wear white jerseys, blue pants and orange helmets. (Fun fact: The Gators will not wear orange jerseys or pants at all this season.)

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