The Alabama Crimson Tide will play the Louisville Cardinals in the Orlando Kickoff game during college football’s opening weekend in 2018. The neutral-site season opener is the second announced game in a multi-year agreement between Florida Citrus Sports (FCSports) and ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, to host major neutral-site, regular-season college football games in the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
“This game continues a trend of big-time events landing in the brand-new Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium,” said FCSports President Harold Mills. “Alabama and Louisville is a great matchup to start the 2018 season and yet another reason to become a season ticket member of our organization — to get access to premium seats for games like this.”
The Tide and Cardinals have met just three times previous, with the most recent match happening in 1991 and Alabama leading the all-time series, 2-1.
“We are thrilled to have the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Louisville Cardinals play in the Orlando Citrus Bowl to open the 2018 college football season,” said Pete Derzis, Senior Vice President, ESPN Events. “This game has all the makings to be not only a quality matchup of two great college football programs, but also serve as a wonderful experience for the student-athletes and fans.”
Alabama has played twice in Orlando before. They won the 1995 CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl, 24-7, over Ohio State and the 2011 Capital One Bowl, 49-7, over Michigan State.
“The 2018 game will mark the seventh consecutive neutral-site season opener for the Crimson Tide,” said Director of Athletics Bill Battle. “Neutral-site games have been good for Alabama in national exposure as well as financially under Coach Saban’s leadership. Our first regular-season neutral-site game in Orlando will provide another great matchup of national interest against an excellent Louisville program, but is also a new venue that I believe our fans will enjoy.”
This will be the second time the Cardinals will visit Orlando with their lone visit coming in a 36-9 victory over Miami in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl.
“Kicking off the 2018 season with a great opponent like Alabama is a tremendous way to start the season,” said Louisville Athletics Director Tom Jurich. “We continually want to play highly respected opponents each year, and adding a traditional power like Alabama in the opener will certainly be an outstanding challenge. We have a vision to be the best we can be, and to do that, we have to play the best. We are also thrilled to be headed back to a destination city like Orlando. I know our fan base will respond for this tremendous match-up.”
Tickets will go on sale in late 2017, with Florida Citrus Sports members getting priority access as they do for the annual bowl games and for the 2016 Orlando Kickoff game between Florida State and Ole Miss.