New head coach Billy Napier gets one heck of a first impression to make. The Florida Gators host the No. 7 Utah Utes in one of the most intriguing games of Week 1. Aside from being an interesting matchup, Utah-Florida odds took a ride this offseason after opening at a questionable PK. Utah is fresh off one of the most exciting Rose Bowls of all time and returns the core of a very good football team. They take on an entirely new Florida team– in coaching, culture, and quarterback.
Follow along with TheLines this season for college football odds and analysis.
Utah at Florida Odds: College Football Week 1
Find the entire slate of College Football Week 1 odds here.
Utah at Florida Odds Movement
This game opened as a -110 PK for a brief moment before it moved in favor of Utah. The line settled at Utah -1 for awhile before bumping up to -1.5 for the majority of the early summer. In July, it moved even farther in the Utes’ direction up to -2.5 and approaching a key figure of -3.
As with most high-profile games, watch for it to move ahead of kickoff as action comes in on both sides.
Styles Make Fights
Aside from being a unique matchup (and a great uniform game, at that), these two teams could not be less similar. The Utes return QB Cameron Rising, who nearly led Utah over an upset of Ohio State in the Rose Bowl whereas Florida finally throws in young athlete Anthony Richardson at QB.
While erratic at times last year, Richardson is one of the favorites on Heisman Trophy odds tables for 2022. At 6′ 4″, 230 pounds, he looks and plays like Cam Newton (also a Gator briefly)– complete with an explosive running ability and rifle arm. However, decision making, durability, and accuracy were real sore spots for the freshman in 2021. With a full offseason as the starter, Richardson will surely grow in both of those areas.
Rising has electric athleticism, as well, but is a scrappier passer who thrives off-script in the same vein as Patrick Mahomes. Utah also returns three of their top four rushers– including 1,100-yard rusher Tavion Thomas– and four of their top five receivers. The strength for Utah is their front seven, who takes on a Florida OL with lots of newcomers, question marks, and a lot to prove.
The Utes’ defensive front is ranked sixth in the nation by Phil Steele, and their linebackers 12th, while facing a Florida team ranked in the bottom half of college football. Conversely, Utah’s weakest unit (their defensive secondary) catches a break against Florida who lost three of their top five receivers and is in need of a go-to threat.
Everyone knows about altitude games, most often applied to places like Wyoming, Colorado, and Air Force. However, rarely do we get this “reverse altitude” situation. Utah’s home stadium Rice Eccles Stadium sits at over 4,600 feet above sea level, the seventh-highest elevated stadium in the FBS. Conversely, Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium stands just 177 feet above sea level.
High-altitude de-acclimatisation syndrome (HADAS) is a lightly documented, but very real thing. Common symptoms include feeling sluggish and headaches (although potentially not as severe as typical altitude sickness).
The other piece to the puzzle is the humidity in central Florida opposed to Salt Lake City. Though this game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. ET, the humidity certainly sticks around. According to Weather U.S., the average relative humidity in Gainesville in September is 78% (about 50% for Salt Lake City).
Combine those factors with going backwards two time zones and Florida should have a stronger home field advantage than usual.
The bottom line
Florida’s biggest issue on defense last year was effort. They finished 78th in run defense EPA but 19th against the pass and return eight defensive starters. The biggest improvement Napier’s made is the locker room culture (though that’s best evaluated midseason) and better effort should be there this coming season. However, they go against the most explosive rushing offense from 2021 with Thomas and Rising back at the helm.
The Utes are too talented and experienced to be counted out of this game and match up well with the Gators, hence the dramatic movement in point spread in favor of them. Everything Florida touts, Utah touts just a little bit better.
Outside of being on the road and in a tough environment to play in, there’s nothing not to like about Utah.
Utah at Florida Forecast
Full transparency, I bet this game back in May when it was a PK. If you were watching and scooped up that line, congratulations on your closing line value.
For those looking for what to do with the current line, it may be beneficial to see what everyone else does first. Find your way to a “market maker” (a book that makes their lines rather than copying them) like FanDuel Sportsbook. Keep your tab open and check on the line a few times leading up to kickoff. If there’s action moving the line one way, you can jump on the other side at a non-market maker book and get a half-point bonus or more.
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