Florida vs Utah Odds & Prediction | Thursday Betting Guide
Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Utah running back Micah Bernard.
Florida vs Utah Odds
For a couple of games each year, we're blessed with a heavyweight nonconference matchup. While it will be the second year in a row that the Florida Gators and Utah Utes play, this time it will be on the opening Thursday night of Week 1.
The 2022 matchup between these two saw Utah come up just short in Gainesville by a score of 29-26. Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson impressed by making some insane plays and putting up 100-plus yards both through the air and on the ground.
Now, Richardson is gone, and the Gators will travel to Rice-Eccles Stadium. But the status of Utah’ quarterback Cam Rising is also in question, leaving a massive question mark over the game.
So, where does the betting value lie for Florida vs. Utah? Let's dive into Thursday's odds and make a pick.
Week 1 may have been the highlight of the season for Florida last year. After this huge win, it went on to finish the regular season at 6-6, just barely squeaking into a bowl game.
A lot will be changing on this offense following the departure of Anthony Richardson. Replacing him is former Wisconsin signal-caller Graham Mertz. Mertz started 32 games in his four years at Wisconsin, throwing for 5,399 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Mertz never did quite live up to his recruiting ranking at Wisconsin, though. The offenses in Madison lacked firepower under his watch, ranking 62nd in Success Rate and 82nd in explosiveness last season.
There won't be much more to work with in Gainesville, as Florida returns just six starters and will be without three of its top four receivers from a year ago.
This carries over to the defensive side as well, where the Gators will bring back only five starters after losing their top five tacklers from 2022. Using my own metrics, Florida’s defense ranks 73rd in returning experience on defense.
Florida ranks 109th in Phil Steele’s experience chart and comes in at 66th in net returning production.
We will likely see a much different Florida offense under Billy Napier this season than what we saw a year ago with Richardson. Mertz is a very different type of quarterback, which may play into Napier’s strengths as a coach.
However, I’m not convinced we'll see a massive improvement from Mertz on the road in Week 1.
Cam Rising returns for another season in Salt Lake City after throwing for 3,034 yards and 26 touchdowns a season ago. After leading Utah to a Pac-12 Championship for the second year in a row, Rising sustained an ACL injury that knocked him out of the Rose Bowl.
This line has fluctuated wildly based on the status of Rising’s knee. It's now being reported that Rising is doubtful to play in this game, according to ESPN's Pete Thamel.
If Rising is not ready to go, it would be junior quarterback Bryson Barnes who steps in under center. Barnes played in relief of Rising last year, throwing for 430 yards, four touchdowns and two picks in his limited playing time.
Outside of Rising, the other big injury news for Utah centers on tight end Brant Kuithe. Kuithe was the team’s top receiver last year before suffering a knee injury after four games that knocked him out for the remainder of the season. If Kuithe is able to play, Utah’s offense will be much more potent after losing two of its top three receivers from a year ago.
Overall, Utah returns seven starters on offense, including three offensive linemen. It also added receivers Emery Simmons (Indiana), Mycah Pittman (Florida State) and Landen King (Auburn) via the transfer portal.
Utah is in good shape defensively as well. It returns nine starters on that side of the ball, putting itself at 10th in FBS in net returning production. Clark Phillips III is a big loss to the NFL at cornerback, but essentially everyone else is back on a defense that ranked 29th in Success Rate a year ago.
Florida vs Utah
Betting Pick & Prediction
This game essentially comes down to Rising’s injury, which is already being priced into the market.
The line on this game may move around dramatically between the time I’m writing this and kickoff. But either way, I'll be on the Utes at the right number.
Utah is one of the best teams in the Pac-12 and will be looking to compete for a potential College Football Playoff berth if everything goes right. Meanwhile, Florida’s trajectory is in a much different place with a new quarterback and a coach still looking to find his footing.
Rising is an electric player, and I have faith in him being able to move the ball efficiently against Florida’s defense. If he doesn’t play, I believe the Utes have been planning for this and still will be able to get by with Barnes under center.
If Rising plays, I would take Utah up to the key number of seven. If Rising is out, I would still take the Utes up to -3.5.