SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

“It kind of feels like Christmas is coming early and you finally get to go play football again,” said quarterback Cam Rising. “That’s all we’re really looking forward to.”

It’s only appropriate that one of the most anticipated seasons in Utah football history begins in one of the most electric and hostile atmospheres in all of college football — The Swamp in Florida.

“This may be the most hostile,” said Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s the first game of the year, a night game, a new coaching staff, a lot of excitement. We’re sure that place is going to be difficult to play in.”

The 7th-ranked Utes have been practicing for weeks with large speakers blasting crowd noise, to try to emulate the 88,000 fans expected in Gainesville this Saturday.

“I’m expecting it to be loud,” added Utes wide receiver DeVaughn Vele. “I’m expecting it to be really loud. We’re going into SEC country. Football is a religion out there, it’s not a sport. So, we know what we’re up against, and we know that the weather is going to be a factor as well.”

Utah usually kicks off the season against an FCS team like Weber State or Southern Utah. But not this year. They’re getting thrown right into the fire right away, but they prefer that.

“That’s what we want,” said running back Tavion Thomas. “That’s what we’re here for. We want to play against the best. We want it all. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. so we’re ready.”

“It’s awesome,” added tight end Brant Kuithe. “I’m used to going against Weber State or a smaller school. They like to call it a tune-up game, but who cares? We have to go in week one ready to go.”

“This game has got their attention ever since we started in January when we came back from the Rose Bowl,” Whittingham said. “That’s one of the positives of playing a game like this is that you don’t have to worry about getting them focused.”

Florida is coming off a 6-7 season, but they have a new head coach Billy Napier, and a new starting quarterback in Anthony Richardson, who goes 6-4, 240 pounds and has blazing speed.

“Some people are projecting him as a top-10 pick in the NFL draft,” Whittingham said about Richardson. “So he’s obviously got a ton of ability. The guy reportedly has 4.3 speed. At that size, that’s incredible. That’s Cam Newton-ish.”

The Utes offense kind of has a secret weapon in their back pocket. Linebacker Mo Diabate played at Florida the last three years, so he is providing some insight into the Gators’ personnel.

“He does, but it’s a whole new defense,” Kuithe said. “The only thing we can learn from him is personnel and how the players move.”

“It’s not like we put him in a room and put a light in his face and grill him,” said Whittingham. “But he’s added some things, in particular players’ strengths and weaknesses, that type of thing.”

Utah released its depth chart on Monday, and Bryson Barnes beat out Ja’Quinden Jackson for the backup quarterback job behind Rising.

“He just has better command of the offense,” Whittingham said about Barnes. Right now we feel Bryson Barnes is the best solution if something were to happen to Cam.”

Hopefully, that won’t happen. Utah and Florida kick off at 5:00 p.m. Saturday night on ESPN.