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Florida to kick off twice at night in first month of 2018 season

Blessedly, the Gators’ return to the field will come under the lights.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators will play under Saturday night lights frequently in September 2018.

The program — in conjunction with a larger ESPN schedule release — announced Thursday that its season opener against Charleston Southern on September 1 and its SEC opener against Kentucky on September 8 will both kick off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network, while its Week 3 contest with Colorado State on September 15 will be a 4:00 p.m. contest on the same network.

The night kickoffs continue a recent trend of Florida playing many of its early-season home games at or after the worst of the oppressive late-summer Gainesville heat has dissipated. Florida has played at least one home game that kicked off at 7 p.m. or later in each of the last four seasons after opening the 2013 season with consecutive noon-hour kickoffs, and the Gators’ only scheduled nooner since 2013 was a 2017 game against Northern Colorado that was ultimately cancelled by Hurricane Irma.

The night kickoffs should be a substantial aid to the program’s attempt to reinvigorate its fan base after the dispiriting Jim McElwain era — but, then, we said the same thing about two night kickoffs to begin the 2015 season after the Will Muschamp era.

Florida and CBS previously announced on Wednesday that the Florida-Georgia game held in Jacksonville in late October will also have its customary 3:30 p.m. afternoon kickoff and be televised by CBS as the network’s SEC game of the week.