The Big Ten has released its complete prime-time schedule for the 2012 season, with 14 total games under the lights this fall. That includes six games on the ABC/ESPN family of networks and eight on the Big Ten Network.
Here you go, night owls (all kickoffs listed in ET):
Boise State at Michigan State, 8 p.m., ESPN
Indiana State at Indiana, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
Vanderbilt at Northwestern, 8 p.m., BTN
Notre Dame at Michigan State, 8 p.m., ABC
Utah State at Wisconsin, 8 p.m., BTN
Ball State at Indiana, 8 p.m., BTN
Syracuse at Minnesota, 8 p.m., BTN
Louisiana Tech at Illinois, 8 p.m., BTN
Wisconsin at Nebraska, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2
Nebraska at Ohio State, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2
Ohio State at Indiana, 8 p.m., BTN
Penn State at Iowa, 8 p.m., BTN
Ohio State at Penn State, 6 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Michigan at Nebraska, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2
Every Big Ten team except Purdue will have at least one night game this season. The Boilermakers have to be a little disappointed after getting to a bowl game last year and bringing back a talented roster. Nebraska and Ohio State will each play three league games under the lights.
If you were planning on going to a Halloween party on Oct. 27, better make sure you have access to a TV -- or TVs. Not only will the Ohio State-Penn State and Michigan-Nebraska games be on in prime time, that's also the same day Wisconsin and Michigan State meet up at Camp Randall Stadium. It's a little hard to believe that game, which is a rematch of two epic duels from last season, won't be in prime time. But the two chosen for night slots are also big and feature four enormous fan bases. Wisconsin-Michigan State likely will get the 3:30 p.m. ET time slot in what is shaping up to be the biggest day of the season in the Big Ten.
Ohio State will play three of its four October games at night, including Nebraska's visit to the Horseshoe. It's no surprise, given the Buckeyes' following and the presence of Urban Meyer. Even without the ability to play in the postseason, the Buckeyes figure to be an attractive team for TV ratings purposes this year. The atmosphere in Columbus when Big Red comes to town should be absolutely electric.
Speaking of Nebraska, three of the Huskers' biggest games of the season will all be in prime time. Bo Pelini's team will get a chance to atone for blowout losses to Wisconsin and Michigan under the lights at Memorial Stadium. That place got crazy for last year's huge comeback win against Ohio State at night and should be similarly fired up for the Badgers and Wolverines.
Penn State will have back-to-back prime-time games, and neither will be easy. The Nittany Lions must travel to Kinnick Stadium, which is usually a great atmosphere at night. It's the third time in four years those two teams have played at night. Penn State will also play the following week after dark versus Ohio State, which should provide an advantage for the Nittany Lions. There was no night game at Beaver Stadium last year, which didn't sit too well with the Penn State faithful. They've got a perfect white-out opportunity with Meyer and the Buckeyes coming to State College.
Adam and I had Michigan State No. 1 in our pre-spring power rankings and may very well keep the Spartans there through the summer. But Michigan State will not get any prime-time exposure during conference season. The night games against Boise State (on a Friday) and Notre Dame were no-brainers, and with both at home the Spartans will need good showings to impress the rest of the country.
Northwestern had three straight night games last season but gets only one all season this year, in the academic bowl against Vanderbilt. Assuming both student bodies aren't studying, that could be a fun game.
Wisconsin won't get the benefit of playing at Camp Randall at night this year, except against Utah State. And the Badgers didn't figure to need much help in that game.
The night kickoff could also help Minnesota in an interesting nonconference game against Syracuse. The Gophers had only one night game a year ago and lost in embarrassing fashion to North Dakota State.
Indiana gets three prime-time exposure opportunities, all of them at home. Perhaps that can improve the game-day environment in Bloomington, though Ohio State often has almost as many fans as the Hoosiers when it comes to Memorial Stadium.
Michigan's first-ever night game last season against Notre Dame was a smashing success, but the Wolverines will not go under the lights again this year in the Big House, as had been reported. But they will get their share of high-profile prime-time matchups, having to play Notre Dame and Nebraska on the road at night. The opener against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, is also expected to be a night kickoff. The schedule offers few breaks for Brady Hoke's team in 2012.
Overall, I think it's a very strong prime-time schedule. I count five weeks with at least one really appetizing matchup, with the potential for much more. I'm already planning on not sleeping the night of Oct. 27.
What are your thoughts on the prime-time schedule?