The Big Ten has slowly been warming up to the concept of playing night games in November. Could 2014 be the season the Big Ten plays under the primetime lights in the final month of the regular season?
“We’re more [amenable] to that first November Saturday,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith recently told ESPN.com, “and I think some of us will be willing to look at that second Saturday in November if the contest is right.”
Translation: The Big Ten is considering it, but not quite ready to make it official.
The Big Ten has long been against playing night games in November, primarily for weather concerns. It’s cold in the Big Ten in November, and temperatures only go down at night. Has the Big Ten suffered by not playing night games in November over time? Probably not, considering the big money media packages the conference has lined up, although not having some of the best teams and best games on in a national spotlight time slot does have an impact on how a particular team or the conference can be viewed by the public, or the media.
Night games bring a certain level of enthusiasm for games, and younger fans get fired up for them far more than a noon kickoff. Some night games have brought record attendance figures in the Big Ten as well, so there does seem to be a benefit to adding at least one more primetime game on the schedule if possible. It helps if the conference has a game worth placing in a prime time slot though. Looking at the Big Ten’s 2014 schedule, that does not appear to be the case as it things look right now on the first weekend of November, but Ohio State’s road trip to Michigan State on November 8 could be worth considering.
What can be said about the Big Ten is they are willing to embrace changes to conference philosophies. The Big Ten’s recent expansions (Nebraska in 2011, Maryland and Rutgers in 2014) helped lead to the extension of the regular season schedule and a conference championship game. That ended up stretching the Big Ten season to the final day of the season instead of being left idle while the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 were still playing games.
The Big Ten does not really need to play extra night games, but if there are a few extra bucks to be made you can bet Jim Delany and the conference will find a way to make it.
Doesn’t it feel like we have seen this all before? No. 1 Ohio State, just as defending national champion Florida State did a year ago, has continued to skate by with some closer-than-expected results without falling victim to a loss. That trend continued Saturday afternoon in Columbus, with the Buckeyes improving to 6-0 and 2-0 in the Big Ten after pulling away from Maryland (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten), 49-28. The Terrapins tied Ohio State at 21-21 in the third quarter, but Cardale Jones completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jalin Marshall and J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliot each scored on the ground as the Buckeyes finished on a strong note.
This season may not have gone quite to plan for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes continue to win games and shove aside any concerns along the way. Jones completed 20 passes for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception. Elliott went over 100 yards and scored twice. Joey Bosa got a chance to do his usual shrug after a big play (Bosa also avoided getting an ejection for targeting after a mandatory instant replay review). Did Ohio State give up some big plays? Yes, they did. The good news is Ohio State makes plays when they need them the most, and ultimately that is what matters most. Ohio State does not need to blow out its opponents by 20 points on a weekly basis as long as it continues to win games. With four playoff spots up for grabs, Ohio State will secure one if it does not lose a game. The margin for error with a loss is an unknown variable, even as the season reaches its midway point.
Halfway through the season, Urban Meyer seems to have enough reason to stick with Jones and bring an end to that question some still have about the offense. Jones is going to be the quarterback, but Barrett will still get some play as well. Ohio State’s success will be determined by Elliott’s abilty to dominate a game.
Next up for Ohio State will be a home game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions took on a banged-up Indiana team in State College this afternoon. The Hoosiers may have taken Ohio State to the limit last week, but Penn State took advantage of a worn out Indiana team in 26-7 victory. Ohio State demolished Ohio State the last time Penn State visited, 63-14 in 2013, but it was the Nittany Lions that gave Ohio State its biggest scare of the season aside from Virginia Tech last year, with the Buckeyes escaping with an overtime victory on the road.
Maryland will head into a bye week, and it remains unconfirmed whether Edsall will be back to coach Maryland’s next game in two weeks. Reports late this week suggested the school will be moving on from Edsall as head coach, which means Maryland could be going with an interim head coach when Maryland takes on Penn State on October 24 in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
The demise of the Texas Longhorns has, somewhat, been exaggerated. A college football blueblood largely left for dead put the Big 12 on notice Saturday afternoon in Dallas by upsetting No. 10 Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, 24-17. After the game the players hoisted head coach Charlie Strong up as if the team had just won a national championship. You know what? Texas deserved that moment to release some tension with a unified show of joy.
After being flattened last week by TCU, Texas was a program in a big mess with players tweeting at halftime and upperclassmen and underclassmen not seeing eye-to-eye. This was also a good Oklahoma team Texas just defeated. The Sooners climbed to a top 10 ranking after flexing some muscle against West Virginia and showing some good things on offense. None of those good things showed up early enough against the Longhorns though.
Texas held Oklahoma to fewer than 100 yards of total offense in the first half. The Sooners converted just three of their 12 third-down plays, while Texas managed to go 9-of-15 on third downs. For Texas, it was all about getting the running game going to take Oklahoma out of it from the start. D’Onta Foreman led all players with 117 yards and quarterback Jerrod Heard added 115 rushing yards to go with his selectively efficient passing performance (8-of-10 for 53 yards and a touchdown). Johnathan Gray also chipped in with 76 rushing yards. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine carried the football 10 times for just 36 yards and a touchdown. Considering the production Perine showed last season, this was another disappointing result for the Sooners. Perine has rushed for more than 78 yards in a game just once this season (152 yards vs. Tulsa).
This was the first victory in the rivalry game for Strong, and the second win in three years against the rival Sooners for the Longhorns. This season may still be a huge rebuilding year for Texas, but a win against Oklahoma can help the rebuilding process pick up the pace after starting the season with a 1-4 record. There will still be some difficult games ahead for Strong’s Longhorns (Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia), but everybody in Austin deserves at least one day just to celebrate this win few people saw coming.
Texas looks to make it two wins in a row in two weeks when the Longhorns come off a bye week against Kansas State. Oklahoma will take on Kansas State next week in Manhattan.