Night Game Possibilities

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Last updated: 03/04/2014 5:27 AM
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Taking a Look at the Night Game Possibilities for the Buckeyes in 2014
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In three of the past four seasons, the Ohio State Buckeyes have played in three night football games, assuming you consider a 5:30 pm start at Penn State a "night game".

In fact, a year ago they even played in four primetime regular season games, even though one of them was a 3:30 pm kick in California.

Urban Meyer has spoken of his desire to continue playing night games, and a few more in 2014 is probably a good bet. Exactly which games those might be, however, is the question.

In the past, the Big Ten has shied away from playing night games in November because of weather concerns, but those strictures are being loosened a bit, provided the conference and the two teams involved are in agreement.

OSU director of athletics Gene Smith recently spoke with the Toledo Blade and said that he would be in favor of Ohio State's November 8 game at Michigan State being played in primetime. The Big Ten and its television partner would undoubtedly be in favor of it, but that would still leave MSU with the deciding vote.

It's hard to imagine Mark Dantonio saying no to such a showcase. It could prove to be the biggest recruiting day in Michigan State history, and as such, this being a night game can almost be etched in stone.

So what other games are possibilities? The game against Navy at Baltimore is already listed as a 12:00 pm start that will air on either CBS or the CBS Sports Network. It's hard to imagine Ohio State and Navy getting relegated to cable, however.

Virginia Tech comes to Columbus the following week, and since that is OSU's marquee non-conference game this season, it is also the most likely to be a night game. Michigan and Notre Dame are already slated for a 7:30 pm kickoff on NBC, so this might be a nice counter for ABC or ESPN.

No other non-conference games merit consideration, as both Kent State and Cincinnati will almost certainly be played under a mid-day sun. A very interesting possibility exists when Ohio State plays its first conference game of the season at Maryland, however.

As Maryland's first home conference game as a member of the Big Ten, what better stage than the pomp and circumstance of a night game against Ohio State? Even if it's not the most interesting matchup, it's still an interesting event. After all, that's how Nebraska was welcomed into the Big Ten back in 2011.

Playing on the road at night against Michigan State and Maryland would also likely eliminate the possibility of playing at Penn State at night. It's that Penn State game that will probably provide a road block to a night game at Maryland.

The question that you might want to ask is which would be a better presentation for the Big Ten? Maryland or Penn State? Maryland has the newness, but Penn State has the new coach.

Unfortunately for Maryland, it won't be the Big Ten making the decision, it will be television, in which case the Terps will probably be on the outside looking in. Regardless, expect one of these two games to kickoff under the lights.

The two other possibilities would involve home games against Rutgers and Illinois. Neither are overly appealing for a night game atmosphere, though the Big Ten Network would assuredly sign up for such an unappealing contest if they still have an evening slot to fill.

Gene Smith has said he's not yet interested in playing night games past the first week of November, so that eliminates games at Minnesota and home versus Indiana and Michigan. Smith has repeatedly said that the Michigan game will never be played at night, but we know how long absolutes last at Ohio State.

At the moment, if we're going on the basis of three night games on the 2014 schedule, the best guesses currently would have Virginia Tech, Michigan State and Penn State all being night games, with an outside possibility that Maryland sneaks in instead of Penn State.

Urban Meyer would surely prefer to have more home night games than away night games, but when the Michigan game is always going to be played during the day, your home options are limited in the years when the Wolverines come to Columbus.

Just be glad there's a non-conference team with a pulse on the home schedule. Next year you're looking at Hawai'i, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

The 2015 season opener at Virginia Tech has already been moved to Labor Day Monday, so you can expect a primetime kickoff on ESPN in that one.

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