Utah begins its quest for a third consecutive Pac-12 championship in friendly confines but possibly undermanned.

The 14th-ranked Utes host the Florida Gators in a rematch of last year’s 29-26 instant classic. The Gators travel to Salt Lake City with major questions at the quarterback spot after last year’s star, Anthony Richardson, was drafted fourth overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Richardson was at his absolute best against the Utes in the opener, and now former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz takes over. In 32 starts across three seasons for the Badgers, Mertz threw for 5,405 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was picked off 26 times and completed only 60% of his passes.

Utah is confident in a deep and talented defense this season, but the year opens with two key offensive weapons expected to be sidelined. According to reports on Wednesday, quarterback Cameron Rising is doubtful to play in the game. Tight end Brant Kuithe should also be seen as questionable.

Coach Kyle Whittingham declined to elaborate on the status of his two stars earlier this week. Though both appeared on the team’s first depth chart, neither were full participants in training camp.

The Utah coaching staff is keeping its cards close to the vest and could take the decision up until kickoff. Should Rising indeed remain sidelined, Bryson Barnes will start the game with redshirt freshman Nate Johnson promised to have a role as well.

For a number of reasons, Utah-Florida Pt. 2 should draw plenty of attention.

Here are all the details you need for the game.

TV and Kickoff Time

Kickoff time: 5 p.m. PT

Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV Network: ESPN, streaming on WatchESPN

Betting odds

Line: Utah -4.5

Total: 43.5

Money line: Utah -225, Florida +184

Via FanDuel

Score predictions

ESPN’s FPI gives the Utes a 73.6% chance of winning.

Bill Connelly’s SP+ predicts a 32-25 Utah victory.

Saturday Out West’s Jon Gold predicts a Utah victory:

These aren’t your daddy’s Gators, but it’s never fun to face an SEC team in Week 1. Last year, the Utes lost a heartbreaker at The Swamp in the opener, but that Florida team had Anthony Richardson, who passed for 168 yards and ran for another 106 and 3 scores. All respect to Graham Mertz, but he’s no Anthony Richardson.

The Gators are a touchdown underdog even with Rising’s status in doubt, on the strength of Utah’s monster defense. The Utes will toughen up, but it won’t be pretty.

Saturday Out West’s Derek Peterson has Utah winning 23-20:

Without Cameron Rising, it’ll be a low-scoring affair. I’ve seen enough of Bryson Barnes to know the Utes need to turn this into a ball-control game and lean on the strength of their tailback rotation. I’ve also seen enough of Graham Mertz to know Utah’s defense should feast. Emphasis on “should.” It will still be a Week 1 P5-on-P5 matchup so I expect a bit of sloppiness. Utah’s defense and Utah’s crowd are enough to get the Utes on the other side of a three-point game with the Gators.