Florida vs. Utah: Expert Pick and Prediction – August 31, 2023
FLORIDA VS. UTAH: EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – August 31, 2023 — For the first time in 32 years, Florida’s leaving the Sunshine State for a true road game without being told to by the SEC.
The last time the Gators visited another college campus outside of the SEC or one of its in-state rivals was 1991, when Steve Spurrier was in his second year in Gainesville.
And for this historic matchup, Utah is nowhere near full strength.
The Utes have had revenge on their minds ever since throwing away lastyear’s meeting in Gainesville. But quarterback Cam Rising — the manwho tossed that costly interception — remains questionable with an ACL injury. If he can’t go, or if he’s unable to run, the Utes become much easier to prepare for.
But with or without him, Florida’s facing one of the biggest challenges in college football: beating Utah in Salt Lake City. The Utes are 25-1 in their past 26 games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and they’ve won 23 straight with fans in the building.
And that’s before throwing in a complete unknown: can Florida survive at elevation? In his heyday, Spurrier loved to claim only Gators could survive in the Swamp, but Florida’s facing a total unknown here. Having never played in the Rockies, Salt Lake’s 4,265 feet is the highest elevation Florida’s ever faced. Can the Gators avoid wilting in the fourth quarter?
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(0-0 SU, 0-0-0 ATS)
(0-0 SU, 0-0-0 ATS)
When: Thursday, August 31st at 8 p.m. EDT
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
Public Bets: 62% on Florida
Public Money: 52% on Florida
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, correct as of August 28th, 2023.
Florida vs. Utah In-Season Trends
Perhaps there’s a reason Florida doesn’t travel often: it tends to work out poorly. Over the past two seasons, the Gators have played nine true road games, plus four neutral-site games. They’ve gone 1-12 SU and 4-9 ATS in those contests, and three of their covers came as double-digit underdogs.
Utah, as mentioned above, has dominated in Salt Lake City. The Utes went 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS at Rice-Eccles last year, and they’ve held six of their past eight guests to 17 points or less. Last year’s matchup looked like it was going under until both defenses wore down, resulting in 27 fourth-quarter points.
Weather in both locations might affect this one. First, Florida has to get out of town early with Tropical Storm Idalia bearing down on the state. Second, temperatures will sit at 90 degrees on Thursday.
That’s not as bad as Tuesday’s highs, but it’s still going to be a scorcher. Cramps and exhaustion will likely come into play.
Will Cam Rising play? If he does, how effective is he going to be? Utah ran all over Florida last year, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and grinding out 25 first downs, but that was because they had Rising’s run threat and Travion Thomas. Neither is available this year, which means plenty falls on Ja’Quinden Jackson and an experienced offensive line.
Florida gets to try to resurrect Graham Mertz, who washed out in Wisconsin. But a young offensive line and nine Utah defensive starters back likely means tougher sledding for Trevor Etienne and the ground game this season. Mertz might have to win this one with his arm, something he didn’t show he can do in Madison.
The line reflects an uncertain situation, as neither books nor sharps know what to expect from Utah and Rising. If he’s fully healthy, getting the Utes at -6.5 is a bargain. If he’s less than 100%, or if the Utes turn to Bryson Barnes instead, Florida might win this outright.
The best bet to me looks like the UNDER. I think both teams will have a hard time finding their footing on offense, especially with Utah’s defensive experience. For the spread, I’ll tentatively play Utah, but I’m not backing it with much confidence.