Primetime November football is coming to the Big Ten.
Just not for the showdown many expected.
Ohio State will play in at least three nationally televised night games this fall, including one in November for the first time in program history. Yet, when ABC/ESPN unveiled on Tuesday its six primetime games featuring Big Ten teams, the league’s marquee game of the year was noticeably missing.
The Buckeyes’ visit to reigning Big Ten champion Michigan State on Nov. 8 did not make the list, a concession — for now — to likely concerns about the weather and battling head-to-head for ratings against the CBS broadcast of Alabama-LSU the same night. ESPN announced it could add another Big Ten night game in the coming months.
As it stands, the Buckeyes are scheduled for two home games under the lights — Sept. 6 against Virginia Tech and Nov. 1 against Illinois — and one on the road Oct. 25 against Penn State. All three games will kick off at 8 p.m., with ESPN televising Ohio State’s home opener against the Hokies and ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2 carrying the later games.
The Big Ten Network will announce its schedule of second-tier primetime league games next week.
Michigan, meanwhile, can count on at least two night games, including Oct. 11 at home against Penn State. The 7 p.m. game will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2 and mark the first primetime Big Ten matchup in Michigan Stadium history. The Wolverines’ previous two home night games came against Notre Dame in 2011 and last season.
This year, Michigan’s series with Notre Dame will go dark at night, with the rivals’ final game set for a 7:30 p.m. NBC broadcast on Sept. 6 in South Bend.
Still, the talk Tuesday centered as much on the game that will not be in primetime as the ones that will.
The Big Ten has long been against playing at night in November, reasoning the potential for icy weather outweighs the higher-profile primetime slot. Yet the big-money game is changing, and the Buckeyes’ visit to East Lansing was widely seen as a candidate to break from tradition.
While the Big Ten’s contract with its TV partners states that a post-October game can kick off late only if the conference and both teams reach an agreement, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith previously told The Blade he would agree to the night game. Michigan State did not respond to past requests for comment.
"That would be Michigan State's call. They would call us and ask if we would be willing to do it, and I'd probably say yes," Smith said last month. "[Michigan State] would get the first call. If they feel like they can handle that up there, then we'd be supportive of it.
"A lot of times you have to defer to the operations locally. If we were playing them here, we would do it. I think we could handle that magnitude of a game. That's technically the second Saturday in November, but you're only talking by a couple of days."