Utah comes in ranked #14 but their starting QB Cam Rising hasn’t been cleared to play yet coming back from a torn ACL. There has been drastic line movement over the last 24-48 hours that suggests that Rising will not be playing in this game. Let's take a closer look at this game and get into our Utah vs Florida Pick and Prediction for this season opener.
Utah vs Florida Preview
Utah’s backup QB was injured in a scrimmage so it might be 3rd stringer Bryson Barnes who came into a 7 point game in the Rose Bowl last year when Rising was injured and tossed an interception which led to Penn State pulling away to a 35-14 lead until a garbage time touchdown with 25 seconds left on a prevent defense made the final score look closer than the game really was. (We actually hit the over in that game thanks to the TD)
Well here comes a Florida defense and the big boys will be coming after the 3rd string QB or a not 100% Cam Rising who won’t be as mobile as before the knee injury. 6’6 355 Cam Jackson, 6’5 449 Desmond Watson, & 6’6 320 Caleb Banks. Princely Umanmielen will be coming off of the edge and he’s projected to go in the 3rd round of next year’s NFL Draft. The secondary will be led by potential 1st round pick Jason Marshall Jr. A new defensive coordinator comes to town for the Gators and this unit should be improved from a year ago.
Utah does have a strong offensive line and we can expect them to run the ball (even more if Rising isn’t playing) but it will be a battle to watch the Utah offensive line going up against the Florida defensive front. The Utah front is big but the Florida guys are bigger. Utah lost their top rusher from last season but they have a duo of backs who should be in for a big season - Ja’Quinden Jackson and Micah Bernard.
Obviously it sucks for Florida to lose out on a Top 10 Pick to the NFL at QB but they say it is what it is. Graham Mertz transfers to Florida from Wisconsin and his numbers from Wisconsin are nothing to impress but he’s never had the type of skill and speed around him like he will with Florida’s wide receivers and running backs.
Utah’s defense ranked 29th last season holding opponents to 22.5 points per game and they are projected to be even better this season. They return the majority of the starters but they did lose their sack leader. This unit was Top 20 against the run last season and they should be able to shut the run down again this season. However….
Montrell Johnson Jr and Trevor Etienne (yes, Travis’ lil bro) combined for 139 rushing yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry on this Utah defense last season in the opener when Utah was #7. I think the Gators will look to establish the run game early and see what that opens up in the passing game for Mertz and his speedy receivers - Ricky Pearsall led the Gators with 67 yards receiving yards on Utah last year.
Utah vs Florida Pick & Prediction
I think this game has potential to be a defensive battle especially if Cam Rising isn’t playing and it’s a third string QB against an SEC defense. One stat I’ll have to fact check later but I’m pretty confident in saying that a Non-SEC 3rd string QB with 1 career start facing an SEC defense has never won a game. If this game was in The Swamp I think it would be even uglier for Barnes but he will have a sold out home crowd behind him. If Barnes is starting at QB I’ll take Florida +4.5 or the moneyline at +168 but if Rising is starting, I like using Florida as a teaser piece at +11.5. The line has come down over the last few days so this is a sign that Rising is not going to be available to play for Utah in this game but the Utah Head Coach said the actual announcement might not come until 10 minutes before kickoff. Luckily for us in the day and age of legal sportsbetting with the technology we have, we can bet right up until the last minute or even jump on the live line. Let me know if you need help placing a teaser bet.
Find out the second leg of my Thursday Night Teaser NOW: