Thanks to the BTN's announcement that Cincinnati will be playing Ohio State at night next season, the Buckeyes will be playing at night four times next year, with three of those games in the friendly confines of The Shoe. Historically, this development is pretty remarkable, given that the Buckeyes had only played 14 night games at home ever before this season. Urban Meyer had been adamant about the potential recruiting benefits from playing games at night, and wouldn't you know it, that's whats happening.
This year, that slate is the aforementioned Cincinnati game, Virginia Tech, Illinois, and a roadie at Penn State. Fans might laugh at the Illinois selection, but if the powers that be weren't willing to move Michigan to a night game, it isn't like there was another obvious home selection. Is Rutgers at night that much better than Illinois at night? Or Indiana? At least there is some history with Illinois.
Assuming Ohio State wants to continue to host a fairly high number of night games a season, who are some potential candidates in the years to come? Ohio State's schedule is set for the next two seasons (2015 and 2016), and while we can't be sure exactly who is going to be good and who is going to suck by then, we can at least make some educated guesses.
Home slate: Hawaii, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Maryland, Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan State.
Night game predictions: Northern Illinois, Maryland, Penn State.
Why: Michigan State may be the biggest name on this list, but that game is scheduled for Nov. 21, the week before the Michigan game, which doesn't make it a particularly attractive spot on the calendar. Penn State feels as close to a lock as you could get, given their status as a recruiting rival, and a more favorable Oct. 17 date. I coin flipped between Maryland and Minnesota. I'd guessing that Maryland will be a slightly better team, and plays a little earlier in the year. NIU is the best home out of conference game among a pretty unimpressive slate.
Notes: Ohio State will be playing at Virginia Tech to open the season on Labor Day, a game that we already know is going to be in primetime. I don't think there is a great candidate among the other road games (Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois) for a primetime game.
Home slate: Bowling Green, Tulsa, Rutgers, Indiana, Northwestern, Nebraska, Michigan
Night game predictions: Nebraska, Northwestern, Rutgers/Indiana.
Why: I'd guess the traditionalists will keep Michigan from becoming a night game, leaving Nebraska by far as the biggest home date on the schedule (playing Nebraska at night in Columbus worked out pretty well last time). Neither of the out of conference home games are likely to be interesting enough to justify a night game, leaving the school to pick two from the Rutgers, Indiana and Northwestern slate. I think Northwestern is likely, and can't decide between the other two.
Notes: Ohio State plays at Oklahoma on Sept. 17. The Buckeyes also travel to Wisconsin on Oct. 15th and Penn State the following week, Oct. 22. A road trip to Michigan State is also near the very end of the season (Nov. 19th, right before Michigan again), so I think that's not a likely night game candidate, but I think the odds are very high that OSU faces either Wisconsin or Penn State at night. Maybe both. Who knows?
I think trying to predict who is going to be good in the Big Ten beyond 2016 is kinda tough, but the league schedule has been released up to 2018, so you're welcome to try and piece things together if you want.
Ohio State's non conference schedule hasn't been completely filled up beyond 2016, as there are single game openings in 2017, 2018 and 2019. However, I would be a little surprised to see a major, big name school added to any of those slates, without the rescheduling or removing of another previously scheduled team. Those slates, as currently scheduled, are:
9/16 Oklahoma (could be a night game)
9/23 at North Carolina
Home game TBA
9/15 at TCU
9/22 UNC (could be a night game)
Home game TBA
Home game TBA. One of those two could well be a night game.