We're crossing a threshold Thursday night, we consumers of college football, and I think we're going to like it.
In the 22 seasons that college football has been shown regularly on Thursday night, there have been 25 games matching ranked teams. We get two this Thursday, and the networks are nice enough not to kick them off at the same time. No. 3 Oregon is playing at No. 5 Stanford on ESPN at 9 p.m. EST, 90 minutes after No. 10 Oklahoma plays at No. 6 Baylor on Fox Sports 1.
That noise you hear is change, sweet change. Thursday night, once the hangout of wannabes, is now the sickest nightspot on the strip.
It is not news that Thursday night games are no longer for the rabble. Once the province of programs looking to establish a national profile -- if it's Thursday night, it must be Virginia Tech -- prime-time, weeknight college football long ago became acceptable to the sport's bluebloods.
But this is different. A second network has brought a major conference into your weeknight living room. And that major conference coughed up a marquee game. That's what makes this so good for us fans. After all, ranked teams have appeared on Thursday night almost from the beginning. No. 2 Florida State's 33-28 loss at Virginia way back in 1995 comes to mind.
And it's not just that the ranked teams are playing each other. In 2006, No. 5 Louisville defeated No. 3 West Virginia 44-34 to take control of the Big East race (Yes, kids, Louisville, soon to be in the ACC, and West Virginia, already in the Big 12, were once rivals in a conference called the Big East).
So all of this has happened before. The Big East masterminds, Nick Carparelli and Tom Odjakjian, long ago mastered the art of scheduling for the cameras. Conference officials aren't supposed to handicap their races, but the Big East, which didn't have a playoff, always tried to put its biggest games in prime time late in the season.
And now, two more conferences are showing up with the Thursday night goods during the stretch run for their respective championships.
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