Big Ten strong arms high schools


COLUMBUS – Why did the Big Ten announce this week it will begin playing six football games a season on Fridays, starting in 2017?

Because it could. But that doesn’t mean it should.

It’s not breaking news that money talks. But does it have to inject itself into a conversation to which it wasn’t invited and talk loudly over the people already there?

Friday night, for the most part, has been the night for high school football in the Midwest.

High school football has its own Friday night traditions in countless towns and cities, just like college football has its Saturday rituals. And it also has been a feeder system for Ohio State and the other college football programs who own Saturdays around here.

Obviously, six Big Ten games on Friday nights in September and October will not mean the end of high school football as we know it.

But it is just one more situation where the athletes, the fans and the sport are not the drivers of the decision. Television and money are.

Ohio State embraced the decision. While athletic director Gene Smith said he prefers to have a home game on Friday only during the university’s fall break, his explanation for OSU being in favor of this move made it clear what the priorities were when the decision was made.

“We battled for a long time to try to be respectful, obviously, for high school football. But the reality is with what we need for our television partners and what we need for our revenue stream, we needed to consider some different options,” Smith told The Columbus Dispatch.

Television partners? That would be ESPN, ABC, Fox and the Big Ten Network.

Notice anybody missing from Smith’s explanation? Like maybe the players and the Buckeyes’ fans.

Revenue stream? The last time I checked, Ohio State didn’t need to organize a telethon to buy cleats for the lads in scarlet and gray.

The Big Ten didn’t ask my advice about scheduling Friday night games, but I do have some for fans when Friday Night Under the Lights comes to Ohio Stadium for the first time.

Leave for the game early. Leave very early. It’s not going to be pretty when thousands of cars are added to an already congested I-270 around 5 p.m. on a Friday.

Speaking of non-traditional kickoff times, No. 6 Ohio State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) will play No. 10 Nebraska (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) at 8 o’clock tonight.

The winner will stay in the race for their division championship in the Big Ten and for a national championship. The loser will face a more uncertain future.

The last time Nebraska was in Ohio Stadium, OSU dropped 63 points on the Cornhuskers in a 63-38 win in 2012.

In the span of the last four games, Ohio State has gone from a team that looked capable of scoring 63 against almost any opponent to looking like a team which would need two games to total 63 points.

Getting its offense back to running smoothly, especially the passing game, would seem to be the top priority for OSU tonight.

Controlling Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. is also high on the list of Ohio State’s goals.

Armstrong is a dual threat quarterback with 1,764 yards passing and 11 touchdowns and has rushed for 419 yards and seven touchdowns. He has seven interceptions this year after throwing 16 picks last year.

Nebraska, like Penn State two weeks ago, views this game as a possible taking off point for its return to national prominence.

There are two big differences between this week and Penn State’s 24-21 win over OSU, though.

No. 1, the Buckeyes are at home this week. No. 2, they will not be caught by surprise, like they might have been at Penn State.

It should be a good game. Too good to ever be played on a Friday night.

The prediction: Ohio State 34, Nebraska 27.

By Jim Naveau

[email protected]

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

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