It feels great for Orlando to be the showcase home of the first major clash of the college football season. There is no question that even without this game, people in the city would be buzzing about the return of football, but this impending matchup between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes feels all the more special.
The Canes and Gators will be the featured headliners kicking off the first action of the 150th year of college football. College Gameday will be sprinkling their magic pixie dust all over Disney World and every hotel in Central Florida is already beginning to brim with some shades of blue, orange and green.
With respect to the two games Florida Citrus Sports has packaged previously under the Camping World Kickoff banner, this contest towers above in pregame hype. 2016's Florida-State-Ole Miss game and last year's matchup of Alabama and Louisville could never mean what it means to watch in-state opponents like UF and UM square off again.
Older neutral site games at the Citrus Bowl like the meeting of Florida State and Notre Dame in 1994 also do not measure up. Even the long history of hosting marquee bowl games at the old stadium now known as Camping World is no match to the kind of excitement building around Saturday.
These two programs have been known for their of on-again, off-again series and have not met since 2013. Miami won that game and they hold the overall advantage, 29-26.
Ironically, they have seen each other in Orlando before, when Florida won 19-10 in 1976, long before either was the national brand they are today.
Not only is this the first major game of the season and the first meeting between the two schools in some time, but both teams have plenty to prove about where they are and where they are headed.
Florida is coming off a double-digit win season, but there are doubters about whether they are truly ready to be SEC contenders. Quarterback Felipe Franks made monumental improvements in his first season under Dan Mullen, but it will take another big leap to live up to the Heisman billing he is getting from some media types in the preseason.
Miami, on the other hand, is in a bit of a different position with new coach Manny Diaz. They have not won even a conference title since their days in the Big East and are trying to find that special mix that returns their program back to prominence.
With the Canes returning strength on defense and the Gators traditionally being strong on that side of the ball, this pairing will likely not produce fireworks on the field, but that is almost inconsequential to the bigger picture. Orlando, for one night, will be sitting at the center of the sports world, and that is quite the sight to see.