Week 0 was not our best effort, and we fell into an early 0-3 hole after misses on Navy and two totals in San Diego and Nashville. That said, our process is the same this week as it would have been if we had a perfect record on Saturday.
The first chance to bounce back in Week 1 among ranked teams is in Salt Lake City, where the Utah Utes play host to the Florida Gators to close out their home and home.
In the first of these two meetings, the 7th-ranked Utes traveled to Gainesville as 2.5-point favorites last year. They left with an 0-1 record after giving up 15 points in the fourth quarter of a game that went over the total, and both teams combined for nearly 900 yards of offense.
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson had one of his best games of the season, rushing for three scores and over 100 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with under two minutes to go.
He’ll start for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 of the NFL season, whereas Utah’s Cameron Rising is back for his fourth season on the heels of back-to-back conference titles. Rising accounted for more than 300 yards of offense in last season’s loss to the Gators.
Utah is again favored for the rematch, but the number is 6.5 points as of this writing. It’s been bet down from Utah -9 at the opening. The total is 45.5 points, down from 51 when sportsbooks first offered the number and a noticeable drop from the 51.5-point total in 2022.
Florida and Utah combined for 55 points in the Gators’ 29-26 victory last year, and some notable departures for both programs since then have contributed to the lower number. We’ve got a lone best bet for Thursday’s 8 pm ET kickoff outlined next.
The home-field advantage for the Utes in Rice-Eccles Stadium shouldn’t be understated. Utah is 26-2 at home since 2018 with wins over #7 USC (2022), #4 Oregon (by 31 points, 2021), and twice against ranked Arizona State teams in 2019 and 2021.
The home team returns most of its offensive playmakers in 2023 except for first-round tight end Dalton Kincaid, including three of five offensive line starters. They’ll help set the tone for Rising in his return from an injury suffered in their Rose Bowl loss to Penn State.
For Florida, they lost eight of the big guys up front to graduation and the transfer portal, in addition to Richardson suiting up for the Colts at quarterback instead of returning for his senior season.
The Gators have handed the reins to Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz, a career 60% passer who departed Madison after a 6-6 result for the Badgers in 2022. He’ll look to buoy a program coming off a 6-7 record and a lopsided bowl game loss to Oregon State.
On top of some offseason turnover, Florida has had some attrition due to injury over the last couple of weeks. Running back Cameron Carroll, a Tulane transfer, and defensive end Justus Boone both suffered torn ACLs just before the Gators’ regular-season schedule started.
Finally, Florida had to adjust their travel plans this week because of an incoming storm. The team will fly to Dallas on Tuesday, where they’ll practice and stay the night before flying to Salt Lake City as planned on Wednesday. For these reasons, we’ll be playing the Utes to cover the touchdown against the Gators on Thursday night.