Today was a busy day for those who like to nibble on college football scheduling news. Kickoff times for a number of games were confirmed today with announcements flying out of the offices of ESPN, FOX, the ACC, Big 12 and more. As for the Big Ten? What could be the game of the year will serve as a lead-in to the World Series on FOX.
Ohio State’s home game on October 28 against defending Big Ten champion Penn State will be played before a national television audience on FOX, but the game will be slotted in the middle of the afternoon with a 3:30 pm kick. That has to be a bit of a disappointment for the Big Ten if the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions manage to live up to expectations for the 2017 season. The World Series is scheduled to begin on October 24, a Tuesday. Game Four of the World Series would be slated for October 28.
Ohio State is expected to be a playoff contender this season and could have a win against Big 12 favorite (and another playoff contender) Oklahoma in the books. Penn State will certainly be in the conversation in the early going, and the case for the Nittany Lions will build momentum if Penn State gets off to a good start by picking up revenge against Pittsburgh and Michigan before getting to the Buckeyes. It is very reasonable to think the showdown between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will establish the top contender for the Big Ten championship (not just the East Division) who could carry the weight of the conference in the College Football Playoff picture moving into November. Throw in the storyline following the two teams after last season — Penn State upset Ohio State and wiggled their way to a Big Ten title but were left out of the playoff while Ohio State was invited — and you have the possible makings of a game that is tailor-made for primetime.
Instead, the game will go head-to-head with Notre Dame vs. NC State on NBC, Florida vs. Georgia on CBS and whatever games end up airing on ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2, among other options. It may just be a minor scheduling consequence of the Big Ten’s agreement with FOX, but for one season the new partnership looks like it could swing and miss on one of the top games in the conference because FOX has to work around the World Series schedule.
That can’t sit well with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, especially if Ohio State and Penn State are top 10, or top 5 teams by late October. Then again, Delany sits on a pile of money, so he may actually be OK. But the missed opportunity for a spotlight game in primetime for what could be a pair of playoff contenders is a tough blow for both Ohio State and Penn State.