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Alabama-Louisville, Penn State-Pitt, Ohio State-TCU all booked for primetime

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The early season primetime schedule is starting to come together. On Wednesday, ESPN announced the first three games that will be the spotlight game of the week for ABC’s Saturday Night Football. Perhaps not so surprising, Alabama and Ohio State each make an appearance in the first three weeks.

ABC’s Saturday Night Football broadcasts will begin in Orlando, Florida for the Camping World Kickoff between defending national champion Alabama and Louisville. The matchup between the Crimson Tide and Cardinals will be played on September 1 with the standard start time for the broadcast at 8:00 p.m. ET. ABC will also broadcast the following day’s game in Arlington, Texas between Miami and LSU at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Also in Week 1, NBC will air Notre Dame’s home game against Michigan beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. The opening weekend of college football will conclude on Monday, September 3 with Florida State hosting Virginia Tech at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN.

Week 2 will take ABC to western Pennsylvania for the in-state rivalry game between Pittsburgh and Penn State. It will be the first time the two schools have kicked off under the lights since the mid-1980s. In Week 3, ABC heads back to Arlington for the matchup between TCU and Ohio State. A year after Urban Meyer pointed out his concerns about playing so many night games, it is possible the Buckeyes will be playing at least two night games away from home in September. In addition to the game against TCU in Arlington, Ohio State’s road game at Penn State feels like a near lock to appear in primetime. Penn State could also be playing three primetime games in September with the Pitt road game, a Friday night game at Illinois, and the hypothetical home game against the Buckeyes.

More kickoff times will be confirmed at later times, but FOX has reportedly already selected a handful of games to broadcast this season. FOX has claimed this season’s Ohio State-Michigan, Oklahoma-Texas, and Michigan-Michigan State games. Of those three, the most likely to be placed in primetime on FOX would be the Michigan-Michigan State game, with the other two traditionally being played in the afternoon. FOX is expected to also grab a Week 2 matchup between Stanford and USC for a possible primetime broadcast. Another option might be Oklahoma’s home game against Chip Kelly and UCLA.

But the schedule is now starting to get some kickoff times locked in, which means the season will be here sooner than you may realize.

Pitt-Penn State rivalry ‘might be revisited at some point after 2030’

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Don’t hold your breath for a renewal of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry anytime soon beyond its current agreement.

As it stands now, the Panthers and Nittany Lions are scheduled to play this season and next; after that, the in-state rivalry will again go dark.  Late last month, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told stated publicly that she had proposed a four-year home-and-home series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but that athletic department had not yet responded to the offer.

Speaking Tuesday, Barbour indicated that a renewal likely isn’t the cards for at least a dozen years.  From the Centre Daily Times:

An extension of the storied series might be revisited at some point after 2030, Nittany Lions athletic director Sandy Barbour said Tuesday at Penn State’s first Coaches Caravan stop. But in the short term, relatively speaking, another renewal isn’t in the cards.

“We’ve had conversations,” Barbour said at The New Yorker Hotel. “I think at this point we’ve both agreed that based on Big Ten and ACC scheduling principles — and it’s a complicating puzzle nowadays — that we’re probably not going to do anything at this point.

Th two football programs have met 98 times previously, including every season from 1935 through 1992.  A four-year renewal from 1997-2000 gave way to a decade-and-half sabbatical that ended with the current four-game series kicking off in 2016.

This year’s game will be played Sept. 8 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.  In 2019, the last game of the current contract will be played Sept. 14 in State College.

BTN analyst Matt Millen may need heart transplant as he fights rare disease called amyloidosis

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Matt Millen has seen it all in the game of football over decades in the sport as a player, broadcaster and executive but he didn’t see the fight he is currently in coming.

In a long profile in The Morning Call this weekend, Millen revealed that he is battling a rare disease called amyloidosis and very likely needs a heart transplant as a result. He currently is undergoing chemotherapy designed to help treat the issue, which is the result of abnormal proteins building up in organs such as the heart.

“While I’m still up on this side,” Millen said, “I’ll enjoy everything.”

The entire story is well worth the read and goes through the years it took to properly diagnose the disease and the subsequent problems like shortness of breath that Millen has dealt with. It certainly sounds like being in shape from years as a star linebacker at Penn State and later in the NFL has helped as he’s in a better position than others dealing with amyloidosis and still able to do things like mow his lawn and even continue his passion of building furniture.

Millen says he still be in the booth this fall for the Big Ten Network even as he sorts out his medical issues and everybody, even Detroit Lions fans, are certainly wishing him a speedy recovery as he deals with this life-threatening disease.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

Nebraska clinches spring game attendance crown, Georgia pushes past Alabama

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Georgia got its revenge on Alabama on Saturday, I guess. Months after letting a lead slip away in the national championship game, Georgia wiggled past Alabama in the spring game attendance standings on Saturday but the Dawgs still had to settle for second place overall. A record crowd at Nebraska led to the Cornhusker faithful having the highest attendance for a spring game this season.

Nebraska set a school record on Saturday with 86,818 fans attending the spring game in Lincoln, the first under new head coach Scott Frost. It was the first time Nebraska recorded a crowd over 80,000 during the past five years. Nebraska surged to the top of the Big Ten spring attendance standings as well, and stayed comfortably ahead after Penn State recorded an estimated 71,000 fans at its spring game on Saturday. Ohio State had led the Big Ten the previous three years but stadium renovations limited Ohio State to 79,000 available seats this year at Ohio Stadium, and weather and schedule adjustments to the spring game resulted in a crowd of 47,803 for Ohio State’s spring game.

The SEC once again dominated spring game attendance numbers this year. With LSU and Mississippi State numbers still pending, the SEC has five schools in the top 10 in spring game attendance as of today; Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Texas A&M. As a conference, the SEC eclipsed the 400,000-fan mark for the fourth time in the last five years. Although the Big Ten is typically the second best conference in cumulative spring game attendance, the conference’s number took a big dip this season thanks to weather issues across the conference. Still, the number pulled in by Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State helped keep the Big Ten in second place ahead of the ACC.

Keep in mind spring game attendance is treated differently by every school, and the numbers often include estimates so the accuracy can be questioned. Even though there are still a handful of spring games left, none will rival the numbers put up today.

The updated top 10 is listed below, and a full database of spring game attendance can be found here (complete with conference breakdowns and a five-year record of spring game attendance figures by school).

2018 Spring Game Attendance Top 10

  1. Nebraska – 86,818
  2. Georgia – 82,184
  3. Alabama – 74,732
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Tennessee – 65,098
  6. Florida State – 60,934
  7. Clemson – 55,000
  8. Florida – 53,015
  9. Oklahoma – 52,102
  10. Texas A&M – 48,129