Utah Football Takes on Florida in Do-or-Die Opener


Xiangyao Tang

University of Utah Football’s quarterback Cameron Rising plays against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor


The time is finally here. Utah Football will kick off the 2022 season on Saturday, Sept. 3 against the Florida Gators. It is not hyperbole to say that this might very well be the biggest and most important season opener in the history of the program.

Utah opens this season ranked at No. 7 in the country. They believe they should be higher than that. In order to prove it, they’ll have to go into a tough environment against a really good team and come out victorious. It’s no small feat.

What’s at Stake

The Utes will likely be able to move up in the rankings with a win. No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Notre Dame play each other in Week 1. Utah should be able to leapfrog the loser of that game if they take care of business in Florida. No. 3 Georgia takes on No. 11 Oregon in another marquee matchup, which could also result in some shaking up at the top of the standings.

Point is, the Utes are at No. 7 for now, but if some things break their way, they could find themselves in the top five in short order. A convincing victory against a respected opponent goes a long way.

What to Look For

For the second straight season, the Utes have not named a starting running back ahead of the season opener. Tavion Thomas, Micah Bernard, Chris Curry and Jaylon Glover are all tabbed as the first string.

This is not as much of an open competition as it was last fall, though. Thomas emerged as the lead back a few weeks into the season in 2021. Bernard, Curry and TJ Pledger got a fair share of the workload as well.

Glover is a stud freshman who is poised for a big season. Thomas was an All-Pac-12 back last season who will surely get the bulk of the carries to get started. Bernard had a great year in 2021 as well.

The Utes will use all of their backs throughout the year, but the decision to not name a starter is surprising. Regardless, Utah has a great stable of four solid running backs, and the ground game will be a main feature in the offense.

The backup quarterback spot was also a noteworthy competition during camp, and Bryson Barnes beat out Ja’Quinden Jackson for the 2nd spot behind Cameron Rising. Hopefully, Rising will stay healthy and play a full season, but if anything happens, Barnes will step in.

Scouting the Gators

Florida is entering the season with a brand new head coach and quarterback. Billy Napier took over for Dan Mullen following last season. Anthony Richardson is in his first season as the full-time starter, although he has played a bit in his time with the Gators. It’s always difficult preparing for Week 1, even more so when there’s no film on a coach or QB.

Utah linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, a transfer who played for Florida last season, has surely been instrumental in Utah’s preparation for this game.

Utes Debuts

Utah will be looking forward to the new additions to finally take the field, most exciting among them including Diabate, Glover and freshman linebacker Lander Barton, as well as the return of corner JaTravis Broughton from injury.

Final Thoughts

At the time of writing, the Utes are favored by three points. The line has been moving towards Utah over the course of the week.

There’s been a ton of speculation about this Utes team, how good they are, if they’ll make the College Football Playoff, how they’ll fare in Gainesville. All of that is just talk. Time to kick the ball off and play this thing.


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