Take Five Breakdown: Florida-Utah Preview

Sep 2, 2022 | 1 comment

(Photo Courtesy USA Today Sports)

The Florida Gators open their 2022 season on Saturday against the Utah Utes. Josh Newman of the Salt Lake Tribune gave Inside the Gators a closer look at the No. 7 team in the country.

Five Utah Utes to Know

Cam Rising, Quarterback, Junior

  • The Skinny: Rising is entering his fourth year in the program. After losing the quarterback battle last offseason, Rising got the call mid-season and won nine of 11 to close the year and win the Pac-12. Newman said the big story line in camp this year was that Rising played the 2021 season with a shoulder that was at about 80%. With the shoulder now surgically repaired, Newman said he expects to see Rising slinging the ball down the field more than last year, which will be an interesting sight for the run-heavy offense of Utah.

Devaughn Vele, Wide Receiver, Sophomore

  • The Skinny: Vele has a massive frame. The sophomore is listed at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds. Newman said the wide receiver position hasn’t been the strongest position for the Utes, but that their coaching staff believes they have a real threat. He’s been with the team since the 2019 season but is listed as a sophomore on their roster. Newman said Solomon Enis (6-foot-3, Senior) will line up on the other side of the field.

Tavion Thomas, Running back, Junior

  • The Skinny: The Utes 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago is back for another year at the program. After missing all of spring practice last season as a late transfer, Thomas has now had a full offseason with Utah. Newman said that after some early ball security issues, Thomas found his way back into the starting role and exploded. In terms of play style, Newman said Thomas is “a big dude.” Newman said Utah fans didn’t see many catches out of the back field or any shifty changes of direction last season, but that Thomas is there to run defenders over.

The Tight Ends (Dalton Kincaid, Senior, and Brant Kuithe, Senior)

  • The Skinny: The duo in the tight end room return as two of the three leading pass catchers for the Utes from a year ago. Kuithe is a three-time all-Pac-12 player and Kincaid was a University of San Diego All-American prior to his transfer. Newman described Kincaid as the more traditional tight end, while Kuithe, who played running back in high school, has the diverse skillset to be lined up anywhere on offense. Newman said outside of Rising, Kuithe is the most indispensable player on the Utah offense. Florida fans can expect a lot of 12 and 13 personnel on Saturday.

Clark Phillips III, Cornerback, Sophomore

  • The Skinny: Phillips is a preseason All-American on the defensive side for Utah. He exploded in the 2021 season, recording 63 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. His Rose Bowl performance against No. 6 Ohio State included a forced fumble and an interception.

Five Fast Facts

  • First meeting between UF and Utah since a Florida victory in 1977. It’s just the second all-time meeting.
  • Utah is returning 66% of their production from last season.
  • UF owns the longest-active home-opener win streak in the FBS with 32-straight wins (last loss, 1989: 24-19 vs. Ole Miss), losing just one season opener (2017 – No. 11 Michigan 33, No. 17 Florida 17 – Arlington, Tex.) since 1990.
  • The last time Florida was an underdog in a season opener in The Swamp was on Sept. 20, 1969, vs. No. 7 Houston. » Unranked Florida won that contest in convincing fashion, 59-34, and went on to finish 9-1-1 with a Gator Bowl victory over SEC Champion Tennessee.
  • Florida’s Billy Napier coached against Utah’s Kyle Whittingham as the OC at Arizona State in 2017, when ASU defeated Utah on the road, 30-10.

Five Game Day Storylines

Mohamoud Diabate’s Florida Return:

  • The former Florida linebacker will make his return to The Swamp with the Utah Utes in his first game for the team. According to Newman, Utah media has spoken with Diabate twice. On Tuesday, Newman and the Utah media spoke with Diabate and were told that there has been some trash talk but that once it hit game week, there has been radio silence.

Could this be a Cam Rising Heisman Moment?

  • Former Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen released his “sleeper” picks for the Heisman Trophy. On the list are Utah QB Cam Rising and Florida QB Anthony Richardson. Newman said the problem with that is that Utah is such a run heavy offense, so Rising likely won’t be throwing for 300 yards every game. However, a win on the road Florida in prime time would certainly increase the noise.

Is Utah a College Football Playoff Contender?

  • As Pac-12 co-favorites with USC, Utah has been listed in some preseason predictions for the College Football Playoff. Newman said Utah is in a place where they can reasonably compete and win the Pac-12 each year. He said that on paper, it is possible given their experience and skill. At the same time, a Pac-12 team hasn’t gone undefeated in the conference since the 2010 Oregon Ducks.

Are Utah fans laughing off the narrative that The Swamp is a whole different ball game?

  • Newman himself said he believes the heat and humidity at The Swamp are absolutely a real thing and the team is doing everything they can simulate it. He said they practiced at peak temperature times or would go indoors and crank up the heat, but he said there is only so much you can do. Meanwhile, the fan base is a different story. “I think the fan base is not taking this seriously at all,” Newman said, “I think the fan base is very much on board with the notion of ‘Yeah you have to go into the heat and humidity, but the players are coming from 5,500-foot elevation, down to sea-level, so breathing will be easier.’” Newman said this Utah team hasn’t played in an atmosphere quite like Florida’s. He said Utah will have to deal with that early wave of the weather and the crowd.

What kind of numbers are Utah fans traveling in?

  • According to Newman, Utah bought out their entire ticket allotment for the Rose Bowl, got more tickets, bought out those, and then continued to buy more from Ohio State fans and outside vendors. He said the same has happened for this game. Florida gave 3,000 tickets, which Newman said is standard. He said Florida gave 1,500 more and Utah fans subsequently bought 1,500 more tickets. After considering the outside sellers and buying from Florida, Newman said that Utah’s Athletic Director Mark Harlan estimated Utah would have between 10,000 and 12,000 fans in the stands at The Swamp.

Game prediction

  • Newman- Utah 30-24
  • Chris Will- Florida 35-28

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