The trend in college football over the past decade was for TV networks to schedule premier matchups in prime time. It led to a glut of night games in competition for viewers.
So before this season, Fox had an idea: Why not show its best games at noon?Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
The approach has largely resulted in better ratings, but it also has had an outsized impact on Ohio State, the top-ranked team in the first College Football Playoff rankings. Five of the Buckeyes’ seven home games this season will start at noon, the most since 2012, with four of them on Fox.
The trend continues Saturday against Maryland, and Fox announced Wednesday that Ohio State’s final home game, against Penn State on Nov. 23, will kick off at noon. If the shift back toward midday kickoffs is to stay, coach Ryan Day approves of the arrangement.
“I do enjoy the noon game,” Day said. “I love getting up and playing the game, and hopefully going home and enjoying them for the afternoon.”
Noon games end early enough that Day and his family can usually spend their Saturday evenings at home, watching other college football games. He usually sits in his recliner, the fireplace turned on, and they order food.
“That's some of my favorite memories,” Day said.
The viewpoint is often shared by other coaches and players, who note that a drawback of prime-time or late-afternoon games is the amount of time waiting to begin their pregame routine. The team usually arrives at the stadium a little more than two hours before kickoff.
One downside of noon games, Day said, is the challenge for out-of-state high school recruits who might wish to visit for the game.
“For local schools and recruits from Ohio, they're able to get here for a noon game,” Day said. “But for the guys that live a little further away, it's harder to get here.”
Some fans also lament that noon games reduce the time for tailgating and point out that night games often produce a more rabid atmosphere. The Buckeyes’ highest-attended game this season was against Michigan State, a prime-time game that drew an announced crowd of 104,797. The first three noon games drew an average of 103,438.
Blocked punt hurt
Day said the blocked punt that the Buckeyes allowed against Wisconsin was “completely unacceptable” and the team spent part of its off-week practices correcting issues related to protection.
Alexander Smith, a cornerback for the Badgers, got a hand on a Drue Chrisman punt, giving them good field position and setting up their only touchdown. Day said that several players were at fault for the “block-spot issue.”
“It was something that we were very embarrassed about as a staff, as a team,” he said. “To get a punt blocked like that was completely unacceptable. I think everybody understood that, and we're going to get it fixed.”