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Ole Miss to open 2016 season against Florida State

OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) — Ole Miss and Florida State will open the 2016 college football season with a neutral-site game on Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 5) at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl.

The game will be televised nationally by ESPN as the first of an annual Orlando Kickoff game at the newly renovated Citrus Bowl.

“We’re excited to bring regular season neutral-site college football games back to the Citrus Bowl and establish Orlando as a major kickoff destination for the future,” said Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan. “Florida State and Ole Miss will undoubtedly be a game worthy of national attention and we can’t wait to welcome fans from Tallahassee and Oxford to Central Florida to start the 2016 season.”

The Rebels and Seminoles are two of the current top-10 teams in the country, with defending national champion Florida State holding down the No. 3 spot and Ole Miss at No. 8 in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings.

“Kicking off 2016 with Monday night football is a big thrill for our program, and this is a great game on many levels,” said Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork. “Florida State is one of the traditional powerhouses of college football, and with the evolution of the college football playoff, matchups that provide a boost to our strength of schedule are a priority for us. Orlando is a destination city, and I know Rebel Nation will respond in a big way to provide a bowl game like atmosphere to kick off the season. We appreciate our partnerships with ESPN and Florida Citrus Sports to make this featured game a reality.”

This will be the second time the Rebels and Seminoles square off on the gridiron. Ole Miss earned a 33-0 victory at home in the only other meeting (1961).

Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze has led his teams to bowl appearances in each of his three seasons as an FBS head coach, including both seasons at the helm in Oxford. The Rebels have already earned eight wins this season matching last year’s total and the most they’ve had since back-to-back nine-win seasons that featured Cotton Bowl victories in 2008 and 2009.

“This game presents a tremendous opportunity for our program to compete against one of the nation’s top teams in a great location and venue,” Freeze said. “I’m excited for our players and fans to be a part of a matchup of this caliber in front of a national audience.”

The game will be the first regular-season appearance by an SEC team in the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium since Sept. 28, 1991, when Florida defeated Mississippi State, 29-7 in front of a crowd of 69,328.

“This will be an exciting addition to the college football season,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “We are pleased that a Southeastern Conference team will help introduce a new annual game at a site where the SEC has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the city and its people.”

To date, Ole Miss has no previous appearances in either of Orlando’s two bowl games.

Florida State enters play this week riding a 25-game win streak – the longest active streak in the country -- and on the heels of its third national title. The Seminoles have been outstanding under coach Jimbo Fisher, going 4-0 in bowl games, 54-10 overall (.844) with three Atlantic Coast Conference championships while running up an astounding 35-2 the last three years.

This will be the seventh neutral-site game for the Seminoles in Orlando as they have posted wins over Memphis State (1990), Notre Dame (1994), Duke (1995) and Wake Forest (1996) while tying Stetson in The City Beautiful in 1952.

Tickets will go on sale in 2016, with Florida Citrus Sports members getting priority access as they do for the annual bowl games.

The 2016 Orlando Kickoff game is the first in a multi-year agreement between Florida Citrus Sports (FCSports) and ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN, to host a major neutral-site college football game in the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium during the opening weekend of the college football season.






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