The FBS college football season kicks off this weekend and the honor of featuring in the curtain-raiser falls to two of the sport’s historic rivals.
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Florida and Miami have been kept apart in recent years and their meeting in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday night will be the first time the two programs have crossed path for six years.
While Miami holds a 29-26 series lead, the Hurricanes arrive into the game as a largely unknown quantity under new head coach Manny Diaz.
A Miami native, Diaz served as the team’s defensive coordinator from 2016 and was promoted to head coach following the retirement of Mark Richt at the end of last year.
Along with a new head coach, Miami also has a new quarterback. Last week, Diaz confirmed that redshirt freshman Jarren Williams will start the season opener, with Ohio State transfer Tate Martell and N’Kosi Perry set to battle it out for the back-up role.
The Hurricanes went 7-6 last season, despite ranking second-best in the FBS in terms of yards conceded per game, and their defense will have to be at its best to stop Florida.
The Gators begin the season as the tenth-ranked team according to the Associated Press poll, after going 10-3 last season in Dan Mullen’s first campaign.
Florida boasted one of the best defenses in college football last season and in Feleipe Franks it has an intriguing quarterback.
The junior signal-caller threw for 2,284 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, with six interceptions. His passing completion rate, however, was just 58.5 percent.
While that was an improvement on the 54.6 he recorded in his freshman year, it is still some way behind those of quarterbacks in the upper echelon of college football.
Should Franks improve his completion rate again, however, Florida could become a real force.
When and where is the game?
The Gators take on the Hurricanes at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, August 24 with kick-off scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
The two teams received a waiver for the NCAA in January to be allowed to play on August 24, as NCAA rules state programs can’t play earlier than the Thursday before Labor Day.
The only exceptions are Hawaii and teams playing against Hawaii on the road, or FCS programs scheduled to play on national television.
Neither of the exceptions applies in the case of the game between Miami and Florida.
However, Florida Citrus Sports reported in May that the decision to move the game came after ESPN indicated it wanted a Power 5 game in Week Zero.
While the football season begins on Saturday, the so-called Week Zero sees only two FSB games on the schedule, with most of the division’s heavyweights not in action until Thursday