April 30, 2013

Buckeyes set for three primetime contests

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ask and you shall receive.

That's the message that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was given on Monday when it was announced that the Buckeyes will play in three primetime games in 2013, including two at home at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State will host Wisconsin on Sept. 28, Penn State on Oct. 26, and travel to Northwestern on Oct. 5, all in 8 p.m. kickoffs that will be nationally televised on either ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2.

This season will mark the first time that the Buckeyes have played multiple night games at home in a single season, which was welcome news to Meyer, who has pined for more of such games since arriving in Columbus in the winter of 2011. The two-time national champion head coach's affinity for night games come from his belief that later kickoff times not only help improve the atmosphere inside the stadium for fans, but more importantly, prospective recruits in attendance.

"There's tradition about not having many (night games) in the Big Ten. I love tradition, but I love recruiting better," Meyer said on the Buckeyes Cruise for Cancer in February. "Recruiting is really important in the game of college football. More important. Like, really important. More important than anything else. You get my point?"

In 2012, Meyer's first as Ohio State's head coach, the Buckeyes played in just one home night game, a 63-38 rout of Nebraska. The atmosphere inside of Ohio Stadium that night stuck with Meyer, who routinely brings up when discussing the highlights of his undefeated debut season with the Buckeyes.

"That was one of the great evenings in Columbus, in Ohio State," Meyer said. "Our student body and the quick cals, it's really cool to watch guys really buy in, not only your team, but the fans ... That was a good thing for Ohio State."

While the Buckeyes hosted just one night game in 2012, they also played in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Indiana and a 6:30 p.m. start at Penn State. Although the Big Ten has fallen behind nationally both in terms of recruiting and national perception, those games left Meyer with the impression that there's more that the league can do to up its ante.

Having recruited at the highest level during his six seasons at Florida, the second-year Buckeyes' head coach is adamant that more night games will lead to more success for his new conference.

"The electric atmospheres we experienced at Penn State, I don't want to use the term 'SEC-ish,' but that was as good as there is," Meyer said. "Our atmosphere for Nebraska was as good as I've ever been around. There were other's that were OK, but we don't have time to be OK. There's not much time. Every time you have an OK, you're not being great."

Attendance numbers back up Meyer's theory. According to Ohio State, the two largest crowds in Ohio Stadium history came during night games, with 106,102 attending the aforementioned Nebraska contest, and 106,033 showing up for the Buckeyes' lost to Southern California in 2009. Similar numbers could be expected for this season's contests with the Badgers and Nittany Lions, especially with Ohio State coming off of a 12-0 season.

That -- and perhaps some additional 3:30 p.m. start times -- would be just fine with Meyer, who grew tired of Ohio State's six noon home kickoffs, and saw them as a detriment to what he's trying to build in Columbus.

"As much respect as I have for the traditionalists, I want the 18-year-old to walk out of that stadium and go, 'Whoa. I've gotta be there,'" Meyer said. "Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Then you know what's most important after recruiting? Recruiting."


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