OSU-Northwestern game moved to Big Ten Network

Joey Kaufman
Quarterback Justin Fields declined a chance to take fewer repetitions in practice during Ohio State's off week after a physical game against Michigan State. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

If there was an appeal to playing a Big Ten football game on a weeknight, it was the promise of a wider television audience.

Fewer coinciding games on the airwaves meant more potential eyeballs were available.

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But Ohio State’s matchup at Northwestern on Friday night, originally scheduled for Fox Sports 1, will instead be televised on the Big Ten Network. Kickoff remains scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

The game was bumped from FS1 because Game 4 of the American League championship series between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees was postponed Wednesday. Game 4 will be played Thursday in New York and Game 5 on Friday, originally a travel day. FS1 is televising the ALCS.

According to recent cable figures, the networks have different distributions, limiting some of the exposure. FS1 is available in about 85 million homes in the U.S. and the Big Ten Network is in 73 million homes.

Fox, which retained the broadcast rights to the game, could have put the OSU-Northwestern game on another affiliated station, including Fox Sports 2. The main network is televising WWE SmackDown on Friday night.

No need to rest

Quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich gave Justin Fields the option to take fewer repetitions in practice during Ohio State’s off week. It might have allowed him some additional rest after a bruising game against Michigan State. Fields largely declined.

“I pretty much took the same amount of reps,” said Fields, a sophomore.

Fields said he didn’t want a break, but rather felt he needed to concentrate on various things, notably his footwork.

“Just getting back to the basics, making sure I keep a good base throughout the pocket,” Fields said. “I have a short stride. Coach Yurcich emphasizes that a lot, so does coach (Ryan) Day,” so he worked on “delivering the ball with quickness.”

Fields’ passing production, however, has been crisp. He has thrown for 1,298 yards with 18 touchdowns and one interception, including a 69.5 completion percentage.

The Buckeyes held off-week practices last week before reconvening Sunday to prepare for Northwestern.

The real stuff

The game at Northwestern will mark the first this season for the Buckeyes on natural grass. Each of their first six games took place on surfaces that featured artificial field turf, including Ohio Stadium.

It could prompt one issue. Legend has it that the grass at Ryan Field is allowed to grow a little longer in an attempt to slow faster opponents.

“Whatever the conditions are, they are,” Day said. “We certainly can’t worry about those kinds of things. Both teams have to deal with all the conditions, and we’ll handle whatever they are.”

The Buckeyes did take some steps in preparation for the possibility. They practiced on longer grass outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in recent days, and Day said the team’s equipment staff could fix players with longer cleats as needed.


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