Florida football plays its first game under Billy Napier on Saturday night against Utah (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). Welcome to Gainesville, Coach Napier: Your first opponent as the Gators’ head coach is the No. 7 team in the country.

Florida vs. Utah Preview

Gainesville’s own Anthony Richardson, with his eye-catching athleticism and arm strength, is the face of the team as QB1. Richardson’s supporting cast includes mostly familiar faces of returning players.

Napier, who will serve as his own play-caller, has added a few transfers. O’Cyrus Torrence, an AP preseason All-American who followed Napier from Louisiana, is starting at right guard. Arizona State transfer Ricky Pearsall is a first-string “or” at slot receiver. It’s also safe to expect plenty of carries for second-string RB Montrell Johnson, another Louisiana transfer.

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On the defensive depth chart, all starters are returning players. The starting 11 is made up of mostly former blue-chip recruits, including a trio of 5-stars (JACK Brenton Cox Jr., DE Gervon Dexter Sr., CB Jason Marshall Jr.). Recruiting rankings, though, are meaningless if said talent isn’t developed or used properly.

Rising up-and-comer Patrick Toney is in charge of calling the Gator defense as co-coordinator. Toney’s style and scheme should present a sharp contrast to former coordinator Todd Grantham’s approach.

Florida’s play-callers were dealt a heck of a draw for their first game with the orange and blue. Utah comes to The Swamp as a top-10 team with College Football Playoff buzz.

Kyle Whittingham has been at Utah since 1994 as an assistant, long before Urban Meyer’s arrival in Salt Lake City. Whittingham has been the head coach of the Utes since Meyer decided to take the Florida job ahead of the 2005 season.

Whittingham brings a veteran, disciplined team to The Swamp. The Utes are led by standout QB Cam Rising. Last season, Rising threw for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns to 5 interceptions along with 74 rushes for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Utes defense, a top-25 unit in 2021, added former Florida LB Mohamoud Diabate from the transfer portal this offseason.

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Florida vs. Utah Prediction

The Disney version of Saturday’s showdown would have Richardson leading the Gators to a thrilling win in the final seconds, making him a hometown hero. Saturday’s game is on a Disney property (ESPN), but it won’t be scripted.

Whittingham has had since January to work on getting his team mentally and physically prepared for a hostile environment in The Swamp. The Swamp noise and climate may affect the Utes, but good teams are able to adjust and adapt.

In Week 1, the team playing with a new QB1 and new schemes on both sides of the ball could make the kind of mistakes that can kill an upset bid.

Prediction: Utah 24, Florida 21