Friday, May 20, 2011

Primetime Big Ten 2011: We're Probably Getting Screwed a Little

With the Big Ten Network slate of primetime games released yesterday, we now know all 15 night games the Big Ten will play in 2011-12 (there's a road game between Ohio State and Miami not listed):
Sept. 1 UNLV at Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN 
Sept. 2 Youngstown State at Michigan State, 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network 
Sept. 10 Notre Dame at Michigan, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN Virginia at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network 
Sept. 17 Arizona State at Illinois, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network 
Sept. 24 North Dakota State at Minnesota, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network 
Oct. 1 Nebraska at Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2 Notre Dame at Purdue, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2 
Oct. 8 Ohio State at Nebraska, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2 Michigan at Northwestern, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network 
Oct. 15 Northwestern at Iowa, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network 
Oct. 22 Wisconsin at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2 Penn State at Northwestern, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network 
Oct. 29 Wisconsin at Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
My first thought is...meh. A lot of those games, especially the BTN fare, is of the "bludeon or be bludgeoned" variety; is UNLV at Wisconsin or Youngstown State at Michigan State really any more interesting because it is happening under very powerful light bulbs? Tailgaters in Madison and East Lansing will appreciate the later starts because otherwise they'd be sitting in a parking lot at 7 AM on a Saturday preparing for an 11 AM kickoff, but that's a small group of individuals. On the bright side, Indiana won't be playing in 80% of those night games as in previous years, so I won't have to choose between Hoosier football and the national network night game, which is not really a choice at all most weeks, notwithstanding my undying devotion to the conference.

A few games fall well outside of the meh category; Notre Dame at Michigan, Wisconsin at Ohio State, and Nebraska at Wisconsin are the easy choices, and maybe your idiosyncratic preferences say that a couple more games are in the top quintile of interestingness. It would be cool to see The Game get played at night eventually but since the heartland gets cold at night in November (and notwithstanding macho he-man We Play In Everything talk) that might still be a ways off.

Then there's the middle range of interest--Arizona State at Illinois, Notre Dame at Purdue, Virginia at Indiana, anything involving Northwestern. These feel like the sorts of games that 3:30 was made for. There's even an argument to be made that 11:00 AM would be the best slot for these games if these programs actually want people to watch them. However intriguing Penn State vs Northwestern might be (and it is intriguing), that game will be going up against the best two games the rest of the nation has to offer. Even diehard Big Ten dopes like me will be, at best, flipping the channels; at wost, we'll forget to flip back when Oregon/USC or whatever gets interesting.

Also: North Dakota State? Sorry, Minnesota.