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Florida vs. New Mexico State, Game Thread: A new hope dawns at night

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Breathe it in, Gators.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I went to the first game of the Will Muschamp Era.

It was a different Florida program, at a different time in my life; I'd never write something like this today, really, but it's fun to see me comparing Chris Rainey to Trindon Holliday.

I think I was mostly just happy to have that season underway, and a first football weekend as the editor of Alligator Army under my belt.

Four years later, I feel similarly, prior to Florida's 2015 season opener with New Mexico State (7:30 p.m., SEC Network or WatchESPN).

I want this game to be over as much as I want it to start, so I can know more about what Florida will be under Jim McElwain and delve into what we saw to start figuring out what we think. But I also want to be there in a way I haven't in a while.

I haven't been able to go out tailgating today, and I'm not much of a tailgater even when I can — but things feel different around Florida football right now. It's not a quiet confidence, not really, but it feels like the positive sentiment among Gators fans is rooted in a restoration of hope.

Maybe Treon Harris will be Florida's newest star. Maybe it'll be Will Grier. Maybe Florida's offense will be competent and impressive. Maybe Florida's defense will be ferocious. Maybe this will be the sort of breather win every presumably elite program should secure to begin a new coach's tenure — certainly, I think it might be.

But we can hope again.

When I first wrote that Florida had to fire Muschamp last year, I didn't have more than a tenuous grasp on that hope. And despite Muschamp's charges rallying after that disastrous loss to Missouri and alternately fanning and stamping out embers of hope for the rest of that fall, I really didn't get it back in 2014.

Now? Now, I can have it. You can. We all can.

Let's hope Florida makes good on it tonight.