Gene Smith and Urban Meyer are getting their wish — more primetime football games for Ohio State football.
ESPN announced its slate of primetime matchups for the 2014 season, six of which involve teams in the Big Ten. Half of those Big Ten games include the Buckeyes, giving what both Smith and Meyer want for the program — an ability to showcase the team at night.
Smith said in an interview with The Lantern Jan. 29 he pushes for ESPN to pick OSU as often as it can when it irons out its night game schedule.
“I’m trying to encourage them to pick us,” Smith said in the interview, adding that he would “probably wait till after the Final Four” before talking with the cable sports juggernaut.
The Buckeyes are slated to battle Virginia Tech, Penn State and Illinois on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC this coming season, with all three games slated to kick off at 8 p.m., according to an OSU press release.
The Sept. 6 game against the Hokies in Columbus can be seen on ESPN, while ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 will televise both the Oct. 25 game in State College, Pa., and Nov. 1 tilt against the Fighting Illini at home.
The game against the Fighting Illini holds something extra as well, as it is set to be the first night game played in November in Ohio Stadium history.
The Buckeyes hosted two night games this past season, both resulting in wins — a 31-24 win against Wisconsin Sept. 28 and 63-14 drubbing of Penn State Oct. 26. Meyer said even before the season got started he had looked forward to the prospect of getting those two games at home.
“I’m really excited about that, because that’s recruiting, and especially the night games we have,” Meyer said Aug. 26, just days before the season opener against Buffalo. “The earlier games are a hard time, I didn’t really realize that, but they were hard to get guys here because you’re leaving at 6 a.m., 7 a.m. after a Friday night football game. And a lot of times Saturday, the high school coach has a player, they have to come in and get treatments and all that and the kids can’t make the games. Where night games, you shouldn’t have any issue.”
OSU could play in more night games this coming season, but that won’t be decided until the Big Ten Network releases its list of primetime games April 22, according to an OSU release.
Ohio Stadium is set to add 2,500 more seats prior to the 2014 season, further preparation for hosting big time programs like Oklahoma in 2017 and Texas in 2023 and beyond, Smith said, which very well could be primetime contests.
“Those 2,500 seats will be in the south end zone, you can imagine the tunnels, those seats will go over the top of those tunnels,” Smith said. “So now the teams will come underneath, come out of those tunnels.”
Even though Meyer and Smith both said they love night games in Ohio Stadium, Smith did acknowledge that doing so worries him, because of safety concerns.
“I think early on I wasn’t comfortable. I think our fans have gotten better, I think we’ve gotten better at working with our fans throughout the day,” Smith said. “The risks are still there. You go to the stadium on Sunday morning and find those little airplane bottles (of alcohol) … It is what it is.”
The Buckeyes are 39-22 all-time in night games — those starting after 5 p.m. local time — according to the release. Officially, OSU is 29-19 in games either on the road or played at a neutral site at night and 10-3 at home in primetime games at home.
Aside from the wins against Wisconsin and Penn State in Columbus last season, OSU was 1-2 in other prime-time matchups, falling to Michigan State and Clemson in the Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl, while beating Northwestern on the road.
But the odds of Meyer continuing to support the idea of home night games for his team are very high.
“I think our atmosphere at night is magical,” Meyer said.
2014 OSU Football Schedule (as of Tuesday)
Aug. 30 — v. Navy, noon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore
Sept. 6 — Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. on ESPN
Sept. 13 — Kent State
Sept. 20 — Bye
Sept. 27 — Cincinnati
Oct. 4 — at Maryland
Oct. 11 — Bye
Oct. 18 —Rutgers
Oct. 25 — at Penn State, 8 p.m. on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Nov. 1 — Illinois, 8 p.m. on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2
Nov. 8 — at Michigan State
Nov. 15 — at Minnesota
Nov. 22 — Indiana
Nov. 29 — Michigan
Dec. 6 — Big Ten Championship Game