Billy Napier makes his Florida debut as head coach on Saturday night against defending Pac-12 champion Utah. Kickoff from Gainesville is at 7 p.m. EST.
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The Utes won the Pac-12 last season and reached the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history, losing to Ohio State, 48-45. Florida is coming off a 6-7 season a year ago, but returns one of the best quarterbacks in the nation to Anthony Richardson.
Who: No. 7 Utah at Florida.
When: Saturday September 3, 2022.
Time: 7 p.m. Eastern time.
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville (88,548).
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last line: Utah-3.
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Check out some of what The Associated Press’ Mark Long wrote in his preview of Saturday night’s game.
Utah linebacker Mohamoud Diabate knows what awaits him in Florida: sweltering heat, sweltering humidity and deafening noise.
He experienced everything the swamp has to offer during his three seasons in Gainesville. Now he’s back — this time on the sidelines of the visits — for arguably the biggest non-conference game Florida has staged in nearly a decade.
And when seventh-seeded Utah heads to Florida Field on Saturday night for the first time since 1977 to open its most anticipated season in school history, Diabate will have warned coaches, teammates and all those who ask what to expect.
“It’s one of a kind,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anywhere I could compare it to. It’s an electric atmosphere.
The Gators, underdogs at 2 1/2 points according to FanDuel Sports Bettingare also counting on him to make a difference.
Florida begins the Billy Napier era with the program’s toughest home opener in more than 50 years. Napier calls him a “carrot” for his players, but he also has the potential to be a catapult for a once-proud program clearly in rebuilding mode.
The Gators have lost 10 of their last 16 games, a slip-up that prompted athletic director Scott Stricklin to fire Dan Mullen in November. He hired Napier a few days later and tasked him with closing the gap to Southeastern Conference heavyweights Georgia and Alabama.
Napier has dynamic quarterback Anthony Richardson to build around, but whether he has enough talent to be more than mediocre in the first year remains to be seen. Still, upsetting the defending Pac-12 champions at home would set a momentous tone for his tenure. .
“It’s not the same team as last year,” Florida defensive back Tre’Vez Johnson said. “It’s not going to be anything they’ve seen before, especially in this swamp. It’s not nothing like 90,000. It’s the best atmosphere in football, in college football. It’s also a night game .
Napier has spent the past nine months putting his stamp on the program, which includes a new $85 million facility. But he was also rather tight-lipped – he has a chance to surprise – about what to expect after kick-off.
There are no such secrets with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose physical style has helped him win at least nine games in six of the past eight seasons. The Utes are bringing back 17 starters from last year’s team that lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, including dual-threat quarterback Cam Rising, 1,100 yards, 21 touchdowns Tavion Thomas and quite possibly the top tandem tight (Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid) in college football.
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