Utah fans excited to host an SEC team for the first time ever in tonight’s game

Aug 31, 2023, 4:16 PM

utes game tailgater has a tent open...

Some fans were tailgating as early as 6 a.m. Thursday in anticipation of the big game. (Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The countdown to college football in Utah is almost over as the University of Utah Utes get ready to take on the Florida Gators at Rice Eccles Stadium in Thursday night’s game. 

Several fans were out tailgating as early as 6 a.m. Thursday. This game marks the first time Rice Eccles Stadium has ever hosted an SEC team.

High hopes for Utes game one

Reports about Cam Rising’s health haven’t boded well for his appearance in Thursday’s game. Utah’s star quarterback tore his ACL in the Rose Bowl back in January and he has since been rehabbing.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel posted that Rising was not expected to play Thursday and that the Utes were expected to give Junior Bryson Barnes the start against the Gators.


Despite the reports, Utes fans have confidence that Barnes and freshman Nate Johnson can hold their own against Florida.

“Bryson has been getting the first-team reps, this is a game plan geared for him,” said tailgater Matt Allen. “Bryson is going to have to make some throws, he’s got the receivers to do it.”

“I think we’re going to be alright,” said Ute fan John Thieling. “[Florida] is a good, solid program … but I don’t think they’re going to be used to the altitude … and I think the heat, even though it’s a drier heat.”

Grilling gators … literally

As fans tailgated through Thursday morning, some took grilling lunch (and the opposing team) to the next level.

Shawn Nicholls said one night, he decided he was going to order an alligator to grill on game day.

“[We were] drinking one night, and I told my friends I was going to buy an alligator … [I] had it shipped here from Louisiana,” Nicholls said. “We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re going to try,” he said with a laugh.

When asked how much it cost to get it, Nicholls said with a big sigh, “300 bucks.” But, the good news is it got here in just two days.

Somehow, Nicholls’ group wasn’t the only ones grilling an alligator at the tailgate lot off Guardsman Way.

Another group comprised of Utes and Florida fans said they were grilling one too.

End of an era

This will likely be the final year of the Pac-12 Conference after failed media rights deals led most teams, including Utah, to jump ship earlier this year.

Utah will join teams like BYU, Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State in the Big 12 Conference in 2024. USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon will join the Big Ten in 2024.

Fans like Thieling said they are disappointed the conference couldn’t stay together, but they are looking forward to one more chance for Utah to take home a Pac-12 title, ending an era on a three-peat.

“It would be a blast,” Allen said.

Related: Dickson: Utah-Florida football game does not cancel class

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

The Utah Utes

Utah football game florida...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Utah-Florida football game does not cancel class

Amanda Dickson explains why the Utah-Florida football game doesn't have her canceling her media law class today.

27 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Utah fans excited to host an SEC team for the first time ever in tonight’s game