Photo by Carly Mackler | Getty Images

Florida opens the 2023 with a rare Thursday night battle in Salt Lake City against the No. 14 Utah Utes. The two teams squared off at the beginning of the 2022 season with Florida coming away victorious, 29-26.

The Utes have won fourteen straight games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, dating back to 2020.

The two teams are set to kickoff the new year at 8:00 PM EDT. ESPN will be broadcasting the game live.

The following are our staff’s predictions for Florida’s matchup with Utah:

Carson – The game should be a low-scoring one with the Gators trying to find their rhythm on offense and question marks surrounding Utah’s Cam Rising and his availability. The Florida running game will establish itself early but with limited experience in the receiver room, the Gators might still have some kinks to work out on offense. Utah hasn’t played P5 out-of-conference opponents well as of late, but being in Salt Lake City should give the Utes a slight edge. Gators cover the spread but fall 23-20.

Alyssa – Florida will have a rough start with this being the first game, and how the dynamic of the team has shifted with a number of new players. The loss of Anthony Richardson might show in the first half, but I believe the Gators can make a comeback and hopefully upset Utah. Graham Mertz, has proved with his success in training camps he is ready to play ball and win the battle on the field against tough teams. The Gators will have a unified running ball game and a strong defensive line which will be crucial against Utah. Florida facing a team in the top-15 I also believe will give the Gators a better run for the season, and what they can expect for other teams. In the end I think Florida will pull out some game winning plays and take the victory. Florida, 30-24.

Hugh – This will be a very tough test for Graham Mertz in his first start with the Gators going against Utah on the road. They went 6-0 at home last season so they are very good in front of their home crowd, which will be pumped and ready for revenge after Florida beat them last year. With that being said, I think the biggest factor that will play into the outcome of this game will be whether Cam Rising can play, and if he does, how much impact will he be able to have? After tearing his ACL in January, if he does play, I do not believe he will be at 100%. Because of this, I think the Gators will be able to pull off the upset in a close one. Florida, 31-27.

Brian – The Gators have a lot working against them as they travel across the country to take on a team that opens the year in the Top-15 in the polls. If the opponent wasn’t enough, the elevation could prove treacherous, with Rice-Eccles Stadium positioned 4,637 feet above sea level. Utah enters Thursday’s game as a 6.5-point favorite. Since 2018, the Utes are 18-10 against the spread at home but just 5-11 (ATS) in non-conference games. That trend will continue in this game, but the Utes will pull out the dub. Utah, 24-20.

What do you think the final score of the Florida-Utah game will be Thursday night?

*All predictions were made before the reports that Utah QB Cam Rising would not be available.

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