Saturday night 7 PM on ESPN, the swamp will be jumping. The Florida Gators open their 2022 college football season against one of the most hyped preseason teams, the #7 ranked Utah Utes.
The Pac-12 champions, Utah finished last season with an impressive 10-4 record (8-1 in the Pac-12). This saw them dismantle No 3. Oregon 38-7 in Utah and then do it again two weeks later crushing Oregon 38-10 in the Pac-12 championship game. Utah would fall 48-45 in the Rose Bowl to Ohio State. Utah’s #7 ranking is the highest preseason AP ranking in the programs history.
All eyes will be on the dynamic Utah junior quarterback Cameron Rising. Rising threw for nearly 3,000 yards last season while also using his legs to pick up 500 on the ground. Throwing for 20 touchdowns and rushing for six more scores, Florida will have to stay aware of Risings ability to scramble when he can’t find anyone open. The Utes also have a superstar at cornerback in Clark Phillips, Pete Fiutak of College Football News details in his Utah Utes 2022 preview. College Football News also has the Utah defensive unit ranked 8th in their preseason poll. With what should be a well rounded team, Utah has their eyes set on making the College Football Playoffs.
The Gators are coming off a disappointing 6-7 record that saw them finish 2-6 in the SEC. This included conferences losses against Kentucky, South Carolina, and Missouri. Disheartening defeats for a Florida program that expects to compete at the top of the SEC each season. This also led to the firing of now former Gators Dan Mullen after four seasons. Mullen compiled a 21-5 record in his first two seasons at Florida before a disappointing 13-10 record combined the last two. He would end with a 34-15 record including a 2-1 bowl record at the time of the firing. Florida hired a new man with lofty expectations based on what he was able to accomplish at his previous stop.
Out with Mullens and now in with 43-year-old Billy Napier. Napier helped turn the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football program back around when he took over in 2018. After a modest 7-7 record in his first season season that saw the Cajuns lose to Tulane in the the Cure Bowl, Napiers Cajuns started to take off:
In 2019, the school had their first double digit win season in over 50 years. Finishing 11-3 (7-1 in the Sun Belt), ULL would fall 45-38 to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Championship Game. They would go on to beat Miami of Ohio 27-17 in the LendingTree Bowl.
2020 would see the Ragin’ Cajuns start the season with a 31-14 win at No. 23 Iowa State in Ames. The win would be historic as it was only the second time Louisiana had beaten a ranked team (First: No. 25 Texas A&M at Cajun Field in 1996), and the first ever win on the road against a ranked opponent. It also got ULL ranked for the first time since 1943. Louisiana would finish the 2020 season 10-1 and as Sun Belt co-champions after the conference championship vs Coastal Carolina got cancelled. ULL was able to cap off the historic season by beating UTSA 31-24 in the First Responders Bowl. They would finish as the No. 15 ranked team in the final AP poll.
Catching the attention of the nation and voters, the Ragin’ Cajuns were ranked No. 23 in the USA Today/AFCA coaches poll going into the 2021 season. It was first time the Cajuns had been ranked to start a season. After a disappointing 38-18 loss week one loss to No. 21 Texas in Austin, Napiers team didn’t lose another game. They were able to get back into the polls after 11 straight wins and as the No. 24 ranked team beat Appalachian State 24-16 in the Sun Belt championship game. Beating Marshall 36-21 in the New Orleans Bowl, ULL slotted as the No. 16 team in the final AP ranking.
Summing up Napiers time in Louisiana:
- 40-12 overall record.
- 28-5 conference record
- 2-1 bowl game record
- 33-5 record, 23-2 conference record after his inaugural season.
- Three straight 10 win seasons.
- Four straight Sun Belt West Division titles
- A share of the Sun Belt title in 2020 and 2021 Sun Belt Conference Champions
- ULL beat first ranked opponent since 1996.
- Schools fist time being ranked in 50 years.
- ULL first time being preseason ranked.
Florida signed Billy Napier to a 7-year contract and feel confident they have found their guy.
Just like Florida fans eyes will be on Utahs Cameron Rising, the Gators have one of the most talented and exciting quarterbacks in college football. The Sophomore quarterback will be handed the keys as Emory Jones transferred to Arizona State. Drawing comparisons to Cam Newton, Richardson has a big towering frame that he will put on display this season. He showed flashes last season and was able to throw for 529 and 6 touchdowns while also running for 401 yards and 3 touchdowns in seven games. Improving on efficiency will be important as he only completed 59.4% of his passes and threw 6 interceptions. The hype is there for Richardson who is being projected in the top 15 in a lot of early 2023 mock drafts.
Here’s an extended version of Richardsons highlights from 2021:
Florida vs Utah football history:
- Florida and Utah have only played once in their programs history. Back on November 19th, 1977, the Gators beat the Utah Utes 38-29.
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