Thursday Night College Football: Florida at Utah Week 1 Betting Preview

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Written By Brett Gibbons | Last Updated
florida at utah odds

Run it back! The Florida Gators visit the Utah Utes in one of the best matchups of Week 1 of the 2023 college football season. Florida bested Utah last year, 29-26, in Gainesville, but the second of the home-and-home series heads to Rice-Eccles Stadium Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. With optimism surrounding their quarterback’s health, the best college football betting sites line Utah as a home favorite while Florida is on moneyline odds.

Florida Gators at Utah Utes Odds

There’s quite the history behind this line, though. Opening odds listed Utah as highly as -9.5 before the number crashed all the way to -4.5 by mid-August. Evolving reports around Utah QB Cameron Rising sent the line in flux multiple times, and will likely do so again before Thursday’s kickoff at another one of college football’s most daunting environments.

The line moved as high as Utah -7 following Week 0, but news that Rising may not play sent the spread crashing back down to -4.

Compare Florida at Utah odds from the best sports betting sites below. Click on odds anywhere in this post to bet on the game.

Florida at Utah Quick Look

FloridaStatUtah
13.2Power19.3
9.3KFord14.4
2.53 (44th)PPD (2022)3.14 (11th)
2.78 (110th)PPD/A (2022)2.06 (50th)
6.0 (29th)YPP (2022)6.3 (22nd)
5.9 (105th)YPP/A (2022)5.7 (90th)
1-3Away/Home Record (2022)6-0

Table Key: Power (TheLines aggregate power rating); KFord (KFord Power Rating); PPD (Points per drive); PPD/A (Points per drive allowed); YPP (Yards per play) YPP/A (Yards per play allowed)

Utah Preview

The two-time defending Pac-12 Champions return to defend their home turf. Utah dropped a tough game at The Swamp last season and seeks a revenge spot to open the 2023 football season. However, they may have to do so without Rising, who suffered a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl in early January. As of Monday, Kyle Whittingham declined to give an update in Rising’s progress, but a depth chart released Friday listed Rising as the starting QB. An update Wednesday suggested Rising will not play.

As doubts climbed about Rising’s availability – as well as that of star tight end Brant Kuithe – the market jumped all over the Gators, dropping the line from Utah -7.5 to Utah -4.5. However, that depth chart reinvigorated the stance on Utah, pulling the spread back up to -7 (-6.5 in some spots). The bottom line is, we likely won’t know if Rising plays until minutes before kickoff.

Dynamic true sophomore Ja’Quinden Jackson figures to lead the rushing attack after averaging 6.8 yards per carry last season. He runs behind the top offensive line in the Pac-12 (per Phil Steele). The OL unit generated the fourth-most line yards in the country last season, leading to the eighth-best rushing EPA. This season, three of the starters return while both rising starters have 44 appearances and 11 starts combined.

Defensively, Utah projects to return to near top of the conference. Junior Tafuna earned preseason All-Pac 12 honors alongside linebacker Karene Reid and safety Cole Bishop. Last year, the stop unit struggled to defend the rush and finished an uncharacteristic 50th in points per drive. KFord Ratings project Utah for a top-25 defense in 2023.

Florida Preview

Billy Napier is on the ropes in Gainesville in just his second season. Aside from finishing an erratic 6-7 with a dynamic QB last year, the Gators have missed out on several high-profile recruits, the most public being now-Arizona State QB Jayden Rashada. Without Rashada as the rising starter, Florida had to hit the transfer portal. They settled on maligned Wisconsin starter Graham Mertz, who didn’t calm any nerves in their spring exhibition game. In fact, after that game, Napier announced the team was “looking to add a quarterback.”

That didn’t pan out, and the Gators roll into Salt Lake City on the shoulders of Mertz.

Perhaps Florida did a more thorough and honest job reporting camp injuries this offseason, but the Gators have a long list of injuries to start 2023. Starting defensive end Justus Boone was lost for the season, as was rotational running back Cam Carroll. Two starting receivers – Caleb Douglas and top target Ricky Pearsall – as well as starting tight end Dante Zanders are all uncertain to play.

The Gators also left Gainesville a day early and spent a night in Dallas en route to Salt Lake City. Impending Hurricane Idalia forced the early departure. Although minor, the last thing Florida needs is a disruption in typical travel plans.

Week 1: Florida at Utah Preview

Last year, The Swamp was the deciding factor. Going on the road to hot and humid Gainesville – and playing in front of a riled-up 90,800 fans – helped propel Florida to a victory as a short +2.5 underdog. This year, Florida travels to Rice-Eccles Stadium. Salt Lake City sits over 4,600 feet above sea level (Gainesville 177 feet) and Florida travels backward two time zones. Phil Steele’s home edge for Utah equates to that of Alabama and sits a quarter-point above LSU and Texas A&M.

As we’ve seen from the market, Rising is worth more than three points on the spread at home. Should he play, this game plays out very differently than if he doesn’t.

Even if he doesn’t, the Utah offense faces a much improved Florida defense. The Gators brought in impact players like defensive tackle Cam’Ron Jackson (Memphis) and safety RJ Moten (Michigan) to help bolster a defense that ranked 85th in sack rate, 99th in EPA per play, and 111th in rush EPA. KFord Ratings project a top 50 defense this season.

On the other side, Florida’s offensive line also looks to improve with transfers; two starters, Dameion George (Alabama) and Micah Mazzccua (Baylor), come in via the portal. Four of the Gators’ starters allowed top-half marks in pressure rate in the SEC and top player O’Cyrus Torrence departs for the NFL. Against the athletic and relentless front of Utah – and without the uncanny escapability of Anthony Richardson – Florida’s offensive line is the most pivotal unit.

KFord Rating Florida at Utah assessment

Find Kelley Ford’s work here at TheLines all college football season long!

I have Utah power rated No. 15 overall, with the nation’s No. 12 projected offense – good enough for only fourth-best in the Pac-12 – and the nation’s No. 22 projected defense, best in the Pac-12. Florida is power rated No. 25, with the No. 23 projected offense and No. 46 projected defense.

I expect a very even matchup between the Florida offense and Utah defense. The difference for me is the No. 12 Utah offense against the No. 46 Florida defense. Even if Cam Rising doesn’t play, the game being in Salt Lake City could ultimately be the difference.

Kelley Ford

Note: These ratings assume the inclusion of Rising in the lineup. Ford adjusts his projections when players are declared out.

Florida at Utah: College Football Week 1 Best Bets

Backup QB Brandon Rose suffered a serious camp injury late in the cycle and won’t play in this game. That means, should Rising not go, third-stringer Bryson Barnes would be the starter. Barnes showed some flash in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. But to rely on a third-stringer in a game as high profile as this, even at home, is a tall task.

I grabbed Florida at +7.5 this summer when things weren’t trending in the right direction with Rising. But that’s not actionable information.

Ultimately, a bet on either side of the spread comes down to your personal risk tolerance on Rising’s availability. According to KFord Ratings, Utah has the advantage offensively against Florida’s defense, and is suited to match Florida’s offense with its defense. I would play Florida over +7 or Utah at or better than -3, with or without Rising, should that number appear at all.

Should Rising be confirmed in, over 45.5 points would be in the cards. Brian Fremeau’s FEI projections list Florida at Utah for 53.5 total points.

Watch! TheLines College Football Podcast: Week 1 Weeknight Slate

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