CFB (1 Pick)
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8:00PM est: Utah -4.5 (3 Units)
Florida has a lot of turnover to deal with as they're forced to replace 44% of their depth chart. None bigger than star dual threat QB Anthony Richardson that was able to bail out the offense om numerous occasions. They're also down 4 of their 5 starting offensive lineman. They didn't pass the ball very well last year anyway and now they won't have one of the best rushing attacks in College Football to help.
In comes Graham Mertz via the transfer portal. During his 4 years at Wisconsin Mertz completed 59.5% of his passes for 5,405 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions. He's logged 125 career carries for -21 rushing yards. He is a pocket passer that hasn't been very accurate. He only completed 57.3% of his passes in 2022 and threw 10 interceptions to 19 touchdowns.
He was also sacked 23 times last year. Some of that's the offensive lines fault but it speaks to his inability to escape pressure. Something former Florida QB Anthony Richardson excelled in. He was only the #1 mobile QB in College Football last year. Now Florida has 4 new offensive lineman to plug in and their starting 5 still let up 1.5 sacks per game last year with Richardson under center.
They're tasked with blocking one of Utah's strongest front 7's in HC Kyle Wittingham's 19 year career. The defensive Head Coach made that claim himself. Utah returns 8 of 11 starters on defense. Including two first team All Pac-12 defense, two second team All Pac-12 Defense and the Pac-12 Defensive rookie of the year from 2022. They're incredibly deep with veterans and experience on their 2nd units too. There's also a ton of continuity and familiarity in the system.
Utah is rolling out QB Bryson Barnes tonight. Cam Rising is still recovering from an ACL injury so it's up to the former walk on. We're bullish on Bryson. Anytime his numbers been called he's delivered. None bigger than when Rising went down in last years bowl game against Ohio State. Barnes came in and drove it down the field to tie it up at 45 a piece after trailing by a touchdown. He is 39 for 59 with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions thrown in his career.
Bryson's also been at Utah and in the same offensive system since he arrived in 2020. He can run this offense and he's proven that. He also has 3 returning lineman in front of him. There is a true freshman starting at LT but the man earned the spot competing against a very stout Utah defense. The strength of the Florida defensive line is the beef in the middle. Utah returns both guards from a season ago. Florida does have a very strong edge rushing presence in the form of Princely Umanmielen but 9 year OC Andy Ludwig should provide the new kid with some help.
Utah's had one of the best rushing attacks in College Football for some time now. Going back they've averaged 217.6 rushing yards per game in 2022, 216.8 in 2021, 194 in 2020, and 201.4 in 2019. You can expect more of that. Although his status remains questionable, TE Brant Kuithe will fill in nicely for Dalton Kincaid who left for the NFL. Kuithe had 34 catches for 601 yards and 6 touchdowns to Kincaids 36, 510, and 8 when they both played a full season in 2021. Kuithe tore his ACL on September 24th last year.
Utah's also at home, nearly 2,200 miles away from Florida's campus. They're out for revenge after last season's loss to Florida in a game that they really deserved to win. A costly interception on the goal line late in the game by Rising gave Florida a chance and they took it. Anthony Richardson carved Utah up on the ground for 106 yards and 3 scores. Fortunately they won't have to worry about that this year.
Florida also has just 7 returning starters from last year. Their first game is on the road in an incredibly hostile environment against a two time Pac-12 Championship team looking to 3-peat in what will be the Pac-12's last year in existence. Florida is going to struggle to move the ball.