- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big Ten's prime-time schedule for 2013 is now complete as the Big Ten Network on Monday announced it will broadcast 12 games under the lights this coming season.
Here's the full prime-time slate from BTN:
UNLV at Minnesota, 7 p.m. ET
Indiana State at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET
Western Michigan at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET
Wyoming at Nebraska, 8 p.m. ET
Syracuse at Northwestern, 6 p.m. ET
Southern Miss at Nebraska, 6 p.m. ET
Navy at Indiana, 6 p.m. ET
UCF at Penn State, 6 p.m. ET
Washington vs. Illinois (at Soldier Field, Chicago), 6 p.m. ET
Western Michigan at Northwestern, 9 p.m. ET
Missouri at Indiana, 8 p.m. ET
Wisconsin at Illinois, 8 p.m. ET
Last week, ESPN/ABC announced its six picks for prime-time games featuring Big Ten teams. In case you missed 'em, here they are ...
Notre Dame at Michigan, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Notre Dame at Purdue, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Wisconsin at Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Ohio State at Northwestern, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Michigan at Penn State, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN2
Penn State at Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
The complete schedule features a record 18 Big Ten games in prime time, three more than the league's previous high set in 2011. The slate features 13 non-conference games and five league contests. You'll notice immediately that there are once again no November night games, even though the Big Ten is now open to them. Check the blog at 3:30 p.m. ET for more on this, but the extra week in the 2013 schedule was a major factor in the Big Ten's television partners selecting prime-time games only in August, September and October. The two biggest Saturdays for night games are Sept. 7 (four games) and Sept. 14 (four games).
Remember that there could be additional prime-time games for Big Ten teams in road venues, as the other leagues and their television partners control kickoff times.
Eleven of the 12 teams made the Big Ten's prime-time schedule, as Iowa is the lone squad absent from the rundown. Here's the breakdown of prime-time games:
Illinois: 2 (one home, one neutral)
Indiana: 3 (all home)
Michigan: 2 (one home, one road)
Michigan State: 1 (home)
Minnesota: 1 (home)
Nebraska: 2 (both home)
Northwestern: 3 (all home)
Ohio State: 3 (two home, one road)
Penn State: 3 (two home, one road)
Purdue: 1 (home)
Wisconsin: 2 (both road)
Some thoughts on the Big Ten's prime-time schedule:
Northwestern and Ohio State look like the big winners here. The Wildcats-Buckeyes game on Oct. 5 will be one of Northwestern's most anticipated home games in years. Plus, Northwestern gets its first two home contests at night, which should boost attendance at a time where school isn’t in session and when the weather is still typically very nice. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith got his wish of two home night games and only one on the road after having the reverse (two road, one home) a lot in recent years. Penn State fans also have to be happy with two home night games, and while the 5 p.m. kickoff time might not be as appealing as 8 p.m., Nittany Nation still will have plenty of time to, well, prepare.
Indiana's openness to night football continues to pay off with BTN games. Although the matchups aren't always appealing (i.e. Indiana State), Indiana has made night games a much bigger part of its fans' experience in recent seasons, which has helped attendance. The Missouri game at night makes a lot of sense as Indiana takes on a Big 12 foe in a window with no other Big Ten games (to this point, at least).
Purdue's rival Indiana gets a night game against Notre Dame, but the Boilers haven't been as aggressive about night football, which irks a portion of their fans.
It would be nice to see more conference games at night, as the prime-time schedule is incredibly front-loaded this season. But as I'll explain more in the no-November-night-games post, the 14-week schedule with two open weeks per team really thins out the conference slate in some weeks. ABC/ESPN and BTN both need games to fill the mid-afternoon window (3:30 p.m. ET), which the Big Ten continues to value as much or more than other leagues.
Nebraska fans were bummed out not to see their Huskers on the ABC/ESPN prime-time schedule, but at least they get two home games under the lights on BTN. The Huskers' schedule before November simply isn't very appealing, and while Nebraska had some good November prime-time game possibilities, it just didn't work out this year. The Week 3 game against UCLA almost certainly will go into the 3:30 window.
It's always a bummer to have no prime-time games at Camp Randall Stadium, one of the nation's best settings for night football. But Wisconsin's home schedule, especially before mid November, isn't overly appealing. The Badgers are the only team playing two road night games in Big Ten play (Ohio State, Illinois).
Michigan State opens with a Friday night home game for the third consecutive season (Youngstown State in 2011, Boise State in 2012). But the Spartans once again aren't on the prime-time slate during Big Ten play.
There's no hard cap on the number of night games Big Ten teams can play in a season, but three seems to be the acknowledged maximum. I've been told teams don't want to play more than one-quarter of their games in prime time, which translates to three contests.
1dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy