More Big Ten night games will be good, but it will take time for fans to adjust

Big Ten night games should be special occasions, not obligations.

That belief is going to change with the Big Ten’s NBC television contract, whether Big Ten fans like it or not. You may not like it, but you’d better get used to it.

That was evident after the news broke that Michigan State and Penn State will play a prime-time game on Black Friday at Ford Field in Detroit. This comes two days after ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported on the obstacles new Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti faces in completing the deal with NBC after the departure of Kevin Warren. The term “horse dealer” was used. Some Big Ten fans may use a different regional colloquialism.

“Horse … “

More night games are going to pile up. It’s weird at best and gross at worst on first glance to watch a Ford Field Friday game in prime time in November. That belief that prime-time games are special occasions has been diluted.

According to the report, “There has been pushback from several schools, including Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, to play those late-November night games under the new contract.”

MORE: Top 25 QBs in the nation | The 25 best coaches in the country

Well duh. This may seem strange to outsiders to the region, but if you ask a Big Ten fan what their preferred time slot for a game is, then you’d be surprised how many say noon or 3:30 p.m. maximum audience. game. That afternoon time slot is considered prime time, and prime time used to be a special occasion, usually for non-conference games—think #2 Texas at #4 Ohio State in 2005.

Big conference games rarely hit prime time. The 2006 matchup between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan, the crown jewel of the rivalry, was at the 3:30 p.m. Night games can be special, but not when Ohio State beats Toledo 77-21 or Michigan beats Hawaii 56-10. Those were night games last season, by the way.

Ohio State played its first home night game in 1985. Since then, they have played only 26 night games. The Buckeyes have played just 10 home night games against Big Ten opponents.

Michigan played its first home night game in 2011. The Wolverines have played 13 home night games, including seven against Big Ten opponents. Last year’s prime-time matchup against Michigan State ended with an ugly altercation in the Michigan Stadium tunnel.

Add that up, and that’s a total of 40 home night games between the two heavyweights in the conferences. It is to see why there is resistance.

Then there’s Penn State, which has done an annual “White Out” show every season. Is he really a “target away” if he has two or three prime-time home games each year? That is a gray area. The same goes for Iowa and Kinnick Stadium and Wisconsin and Camp Randall Stadium.

Why the reservations on November? The potential for inclement weather is only part of the answer. By November, the Buckeyes and Wolverines are gearing their season toward The Game, which is almost always played, and always should be played, in the noon window. The Black Friday showdown between Iowa and Nebraska has been a success, and perhaps the Michigan State vs. Penn State rivalry can become a Black Friday Night tradition that serves as the right appetizer for The Game.

MORE: Ranking the Big Ten QB situations heading into the fall

Should Big Ten fans get excited about the idea? They were left with no choice when the conference added USC and UCLA, which are two to three hours away depending on the time zone. When the Trojans and Bruins travel across the country to play the heavyweights and vice versa, those games will be in prime time.

NBC’s primetime package will generate more revenue and higher ratings when completed. Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, a former Penn State quarterback, and Kathryn Tappen are a top-tier team. Joshua Perry, a former Ohio State linebacker and one of broadcasting’s rising stars, is also part of the coverage. Early season non-conference prime time games in 2023 between Penn State and West Virginia and Ohio State and Notre Dame will be Big Ten wins.

Will that touch the soul of a region of a country that is set in its ways when it comes to when, where and how it likes its Big Ten football? It’s too late for that conversation. The “change of horses” is in progress, and those November night games will be part of the Big Ten experience from now on.

Those special occasions are now obligations. There is no difference now.