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

By OnlyGators.com Staff
September 3, 2022
Florida vs. Utah: Pick, prediction, spread, odds, football game time, watch live stream, TV channel

Image Credit: Graphic by Michael Nash

The 2022 college football season and the Billy Napier era opens for the Florida Gators on Saturday night inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as the No. 7 Utah Utes come to town for one of the biggest season openers or home openers in program history. So big, in fact, that you can count on less than one hand the times the Gators have faced such a scenario inside The Swamp.

There’s no doubt this will be a season of change for Florida football. From the coaching changes and addition of the Heavener Football Complex in the offseason to stadium experience upgrades a new “Voice of the Gators” taking the microphone with the campaign beginning, the Gators have a level of momentum behind them that is no doubt engendering excitement. The question is whether UF can move that momentum to the field itself and perhaps overachieve in Year 1 under Napier.

Florida sophomore quarterback Anthony Richardson will be the straw that stirs the drink for the Gators this season as the team will likely only go so far as he can carry him. However, some significant transfers at key positions on offense — junior offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence, sophomore running back Montrell Johnson Jr., junior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall — and a revitalized defensive system under coordinator Patrick Toney should make an impact as well.

What will go down Saturday when Florida hosts Utah? Let’s find out.

Tale of the tape

Florida GatorsNo. 7 Utah Utes
Head coachBilly NapierKyle Whittingham

Injuries and absences

Probable (2): WR Ricky Pearsall (foot), CB Jason Marshall Jr. (hamstring)
Out (4): QB Jack Miller III (thumb), TE Arlis Bordingham (shoulder), CB Jaydon Hill (lower body), OL David Conner (thumb)

Viewing information

Date: Saturday, Sept. 3 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida [88,548]

TV: ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Kris Budden)
Live stream: WatchESPN | SiriusXM: 158/202 | Radio: WRUF, TuneIn
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Game notes

» Florida is 1-0 all-time against Utah with a 38-29 win in 1977.
» The Gators are 6-4-1 all-time against Pac-12 opponents, while the Utes are 1-6 against SEC opponents. Utah is Florida’s first Pac-12 opponent since 1989 (Washington), while UF is Utah’s first SEC opponent since the 2008 season.
» Florida is 5-1 against Pac-12 teams in The Swamp (last game: 1983) and 6-2-1 against Pac-12 teams in the regular season with its last two matchups (both losses) coming in bowl games. Utah is 0-6 against SEC teams in the regular season with all games played on the road; it has not played an SEC team outside a bowl game since 1984 (Tennessee).
» The Gators have won 32 straight home openers dating back to 1989, the longest active streak in the nation. Their lone season opening loss since 1990 came in 2017 in a neutral-site game against Michigan. This marks the second straight year UF opens in The Swamp after being away from home the three seasons prior.
» The last Florida coach to lose his first game with the program was Charlie Pell in 1979. Napier, however, could be the first UF coach in history to defeat a ranked opponent in his first game.
» Napier is 1-2 in season openers as a head coach facing three Power Five opponents away from home. Louisiana beat a ranked Iowa State in 2020 and fell to a ranked Texas in 2021. Napier won his final 12 games with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
» As the No. 7 team in the nation, Utah is the highest-ranked opponent Florida has faced at home to start a season since 1969 (No. 7 Houston). It is just the third time in program history the Gators are opening against a ranked team in The Swamp (2-0). The Utes are the first nonconference Power Five team to visit The Swamp for a season opener since Oklahoma State in 1990. UF won both of those games in decisive fashion.
» UF is 162-32 in The Swamp since 1990, boasting the second-best home winning percentage (.841) in the nation across that span.
» Florida opens the season unranked in either of the main top 25 polls for the first time since 2017.
» The Gators are 14-2 against nonconference opponents since 2018.
» Florida is 6-10 against ranked opponents (2-4 vs. top five teams, 4-7 vs. top 10 teams) since 2018.
» The Gators have scored 24+ points in 34 of their last 42 games.
» Florida is one of two FBS teams nationally (Alabama) that has not yet lost to an opponent that finished the season with a losing record since 2004.
» UF has scored in 423 consecutive games, an NCAA record.

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida +2 | O/U: 52

Despite coming off their third losing season in the last 14 years, the Gators are a popular pick to upset the Utes on Saturday night. And there’s good reason. Florida is playing Game 1 of a new era at home in one of the toughest environments in college football — particularly at night against a highly ranked opponent. It has a roster that is more talented than that of Utah despite its play of late and perhaps the best player on the field in Richardson, who is making his first career start in Gainesville for his hometown team.

What seems to be lost on some is these Utes are not just another ranked Pac-12 team. This is a legitimate top-10 squad and the reigning Pac-12 champions, a team favored to repeat atop its conference. They are also 18 years into Whittingham’s system whereas the Gators will be doing everything Saturday night for the first time under Napier. That systematic comfort and familiarity will matter immensely, particularly if the game is close late and particularly because senior QB Cameron Rising is one of the best pocket passers in the nation who is still extremely effective with his legs.

Both teams will focus on winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, and Florida is aiming to rediscover its defensive dominance, which will be even an greater task than its offensive adjustments. That could create opportunities for Rising and Utah to exploit. Even though the Utes often struggle to start the season — and historically, they are winless against SEC teams on the road — the spread is so thin that the team which is more experienced, comfortable and successful in big-game scenarios under their coach has a clear edge with the game likely falling under the key number.

2021 records: ATS picks 5-8 | O/U picks 6-6-1

Odds and ends

» Uniforms: Florida will wear blue jerseys, white pants and orange helmets for the first of six games this year. Students will be handed blue pom-poms before the game.

» Game night: The Gators have enhanced their night game experience. Expect to see fireworks from atop the stadium along with flame towers, lights and smoke on the field during the team’s entrance.

» Honorary Mr. Two Bits: Opening the season in the key pre-game role is Reidel Anthony, the 1996 consensus All-America selection and an all-time Gator Great who was a member of three SEC championship teams and the 1996 national championship squad.

» Voice of the Gators: Making his debut behind the mic is Sean Kelley, who replaces Mike Hubert after more than three decades in the role.

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