On Aug. 17, we wrote in this space that starting quarterback Cam Rising, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection, was in doubt for No. 14 Utah’s season opener on Thursday against visiting Florida. The #GoUtes had opened months ago at -9.5 but were -6.5 two weeks ago. Rising officially will not play and that number is down to -4.5 … and very unlikely to get down to -3. The total was as high as 50.5 but is 44.5.
The senior Rising is 18-6 as a starter at Utah – he transferred from Texas – with those wins the fifth-most by any quarterback in Utah history. He was the MVP of the 2022 Pac-12 title game in which he led an upset of USC to earn a Rose Bowl spot. The Utes lost to Penn State in that game and Rising left in the third quarter with what turned out to be a torn ACL. Overall, he started 13 games and completed 249 of 385 passes for 3,034 yards, 26 TDs and eight picks while rushing for 465 yards and six touchdowns.
Rising has been a limited participant in practice since Utah began its fall training camp and didn’t take part in any scrimmages. Most of Rising’s reps at first went to redshirt freshman Brandon Rose, but then he got hurt and isn’t available.
Junior Bryson Barnes replaced Rising in the Rose Bowl loss and should start Thursday with redshirt freshman Nate Johnson also expected to see snaps. Johnson was a national level track athlete with a personal best of 10.36 seconds in the 100-meter his senior season in high school. As a true freshman last year, Johnson played in four games for Utah and rushed five times for 51 yard and two scores while throwing a 16-yard TD pass.
Barnes, a former walk-on, made his only career start last year at Washington State when Rising was banged-up and Barnes led a 21-17 win by throwing for 175 yards and a TD and rushing for 51 yards.
Also in question Thursday is Utes top tight end Brant Kuithe, who is trying to recover from his own ACL issue. He was great in 2021 with 50 catches for 511 yards and six scores but limited to four games in 2022 and still had 19 catches for 206 yards and three scores.
#GoGators coach Billy Napier said his team has prepared for all of the Utes’ quarterbacks. Florida will debut its own QB in Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz. He is set at over-under 182.5 passing yards, 1.5 TDs and 0.5 INTs on Thursday. UF is coming off back-to-back losing seasons for first time since 1978-79, although 2022 was Napier’s first in Gainesville.
Florida is 2-12 in its past 14 road games against AP Top 25 teams and has lost four straight. No. 14 Utah would be highest-ranked road win for Florida since 2012 at No. 10 Florida State. The Gators did rally to beat No. 7 Utah 29-26 last year in the opener in the Swamp.
Thursday marks the first time since 1983 that the Gators will play a regular-season game so far West … and at 4,265 feet of elevation in Salt Lake City. That’s always a huge edge for Utah at home. The Utes are 84-25 at Rice-Eccles Stadium under Kyle Whittingham and have won 25 of their past 26 there and 14 straight. It is the second-longest streak in the Whittingham era. Utah is 28-0 in home non-conference games since 2007. However, the Utes have lost their first game of season vs. an FBS opponent in three straight years.
The favored anytime scorer Thursday is Utes running back Ja’Quinden Jackson at -140. He rushed for nine TDs last year.