ESPN tabs Utah-Florida one of the most anticipated college football games

As spring practice nears its conclusion, the 2022 college football season inches inches closer and closer.

Utah opens its 2022 season with a trip to “The Swamp” to play Florida on Sep. 3 – the first time the Utes have played an SEC opponent since Utah beat Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. The last time the Utes played an SEC opponent in the regular season was a 1984 road loss to Tennessee.

After winning the Pac-12 championship, Utah could be ranked in the Top 10 entering the season-opener. Florida finished last season with a 6-7 record and has a new coach in Billy Napier, but a win against an SEC opponent on the road could carry significant weight on Utah’s resume, especially if the Gators have a good season.

In a roundtable, ESPN college football reporters mentioned Utah vs. Florida as one of their most anticipated games of the early season, and Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson vs. the Utes’ defense as one of the most anticipated “player-opponent” matchups.

“Any time the SEC and Pac-12 square off – on somebody’s campus – sign me up. There’s just something about one school and its fans trekking all the way across the country to play another school with a different culture and different group of fans, ”Chris Low wrote.

“For a Utah team ranked in the top 10 of some early season polls, it’s a chance to beat an SEC foe on the road, which would bolster the Utes’ College Football Playoff summary if they can repeat as Pac-12 champions. Moreover, former Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, second on the team in tackles a year ago, transferred to Utah and will be going up against his old teammates. ”

Andrea Adelson mentioned how rare it is to see a Power Five nonconference game played in Gainesville.

“This will be the first time the Gators play a Pac-12 team since 1989 – Emmitt Smith’s last year on the Gator roster! Because Florida has been so averse to scheduling home-and-home games against Power 5 opponents not named Florida State in its past, games like this one in Gainesville provide a rare treat, ”Adelson wrote.

Richardson, who threw for 529 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions with a 59.4% completion percentage on 64 attempts in seven games as the No. 2 quarterback last season before undergoing knee surgery at the end of the season, is the presumed starter for Florida.

“What will be most intriguing to watch is the way Anthony Richardson takes control of the offense as the projected starting quarterback, against what is typically one of the best defenses in the entire country. Utah has plenty of holes to fill on that side of the ball, starting with linebacker Devin Lloyd. But there will be at least one familiar face trying to stop Richardson – linebacker Mohamoud Diabate transferred from Florida to Utah in the offseason and adds a veteran presence to the Utes’ group, ”Adelson wrote.

Adam Rittenberg also mentioned Utah vs. USC, with new coach Lincoln Riley as an “in-conference must-see.” Utah hosts USC on Oct. 15.

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