The Utah Utes will kick off what they hope will be a return trip to the College Football Playoff when they open their regular-season schedule Saturday with a road matchup against the Florida Gators.

The Gators have work to do to rebound from a disastrous 2021 campaign in which they closed out with just two outright victories and seven straight losses against the spread. Not surprisingly, the Gators will hit the gridiron on Saturday night as home underdogs.

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Utah vs Florida Betting Preview
  • Date/Time: September 4, 7 p.m. ET
  • Stadium: Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
  • TV Coverage: ESPN
  • Opening Utes vs Gators Odds: Utes -1.5 | O/U 53
  • Utah vs Florida Betting Matchup Report

Utah vs Florida Opening Odds

The Utes opened as slim 1.5-point chalk on the early Week 1 odds. But as game day approaches, Utah has steadily gained ground and is currently pegged as the 3-point consensus favorite at sportsbooks monitored by The defending Pac-12 champions return to action pegged at No. 7 on the AP Top 25 rankings and sit just off the pace on the odds to win this season’s national championship.

Conversely, the Gators face a massive challenge to reverse the late-season slide that marred their 2021 campaign. However, Florida has been a reliable bet as a home underdog, covering in six of its past eight.

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Are The Utes Poised For Another Championship Campaign?

The Utah Utes silenced the naysayers last year with a sensational stretch run, tallying six straight wins. In addition to averaging an impressive 39.7 points per game over that stretch, the Utes also limited opponents to 13 or fewer points on four occasions. And with key personnel on both sides returning for another season, Utah has emerged as an intriguing dark horse in the battle for a College Football Playoff berth.

Once again, the Utes attack will be guided by quarterback Cameron Rising. Now entering his junior year, Rising played a huge role in the Utes’ march to the postseason, tossing for 20 scores against just five picks, while rushing for 499 yards and six touchdowns. Rising will likely make use of two returning tight ends, Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid, who recorded a combined 14 scoring catches in 2021.

Utah also sports an impressive ground game spearheaded by Tavion Thomas. The talented running back found his groove late last season with 17 of his 21 total touchdown runs coming over the final seven games of the season. That includes a pair of four-touchdown performances in Utah’s lopsided wins over conference rivals Stanford and UCLA.

Billy Napier Era Kicks Off In Florida

The Gators elected to make major changes in the wake of their first losing season since 2017. Most notable among those was the hiring of head coach Billy Napier, who makes the move to Florida after leading the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns to consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles.

Napier inherits a Gators squad with plenty of positives going into the new season. With Emory Jones transferring to Arizona State, the offense will now be guided by Anthony Richardson. A dynamic dual threat, Richardson shone while seeing limited action. The sophomore pivot particularly impressed with his ability to scramble, tallying 401 rushing yards and three scores in just seven game appearances.

But even with the return of Richardson and up-and-coming rusher Montrell Johnson, the Gators face a tough task to overcome a Utes defense that limited opponents to fewer than 21 points per game last season and ranked fifth in the nation with 41 sacks.

Utah: Keys To Victory

The game plan for Utah should be straightforward enough – stick to what works. That means keeping things simple on offense, with Cameron Rising distributing his aerial attack in between a steady diet of carries for Tavion Thomas, who powered Utah to victory last season in each of the games in which he compiled more than 100 rushing yards.

Florida: Keys To Victory

All eyes will be on Anthony Richardson as he makes his debut as the Gators’ starting pivot. Standing six-foot-four, Richardson enjoys the benefit of several tall downfield targets and could shock the Utes with a breakout performance. But establishing and maintaining an early lead will be key for Florida, which squandered early leads in three of its final four games last season.

College Football Computer Pick: Utes To Cover -1.5 Spread

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Shark Bites
  • Utah is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 as a road favorite of 4 points or less.
  • Florida is 4-4 SU in its last 8 games as a home underdog.
  • The UNDER is 4-1-1 in Florida’s last 6 home games.
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