It’s been a weird trend in college football this year to move Thursday night games over to Friday night, presumably to account for Thursday Night Football for the NFL. But even this shift hasn’t touched the Buckeyes, who have rarely played in non-Saturday matchups -- until now.
Fans might be scratching their heads at the seeming scheduling error which pits undefeated Ohio State against 1-4 Northwestern Friday night in Evanston. After all, the Big Ten isn’t the MAC or the American, where games can be played willy nilly Thursdays or Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
In fact, fans can count on one hand the number of times Ohio State has played non-Saturday games since the turn of the century. Bowl games notwithstanding, Ohio State has traditionally scheduled its games for Saturdays with very few exceptions, with most of those exceptions coming more recently in program history. And for the most part, those anomalies have a theme.
- The Buckeyes opened up the 2017 season on the road against Indiana on a Thursday night. On that occasion, Ohio State left Bloomington with a 49-21 win over the Hoosiers in a game during which J.K. Dobbins, playing in his first game as a Buckeye as a true freshman, totalled 181 yards.
- In 2015, Ohio State faced Virginia Tech on Labor Day (Monday, in case a reminder is in order) to open its season. The Buckeyes kicked things off with a 42-24 win in what turned out to be that weird time when Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller all played in the same matchup.
- In 2010, the Buckeyes opened their season against Marshall in Columbus, bringing home a 45-7 win over the Thundering Herd on the back of Terrelle Pryor’s three touchdown passes and Brandon Saine’s two touchdown runs.
And that’s pretty much it from the 2000s. But the 90s were great, too, so we can’t leave those out. In fact, over the course of the decade, the Buckeyes opened up nearly half their seasons in non-Saturday matchups.
- In 1999, No. 9 Ohio State opened up its season on a Sunday (yeah, weird) against No. 12 Miami (FL) as part of the Kick-off Classic hosted in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Buckeyes fell 23-12 in that matchup. The Buckeyes that year would turn out to be something of a letdown, finishing the season 6-6.
- In 1997, the ninth-ranked Buckeyes opened up against Wyoming on a Thursday, defeating the Cowboys 24-10 in Columbus. Ohio State would finish the season with a 10-3 record, ultimately falling to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
- Like the 1999 season, No. 12 Ohio State opened its 1995 campaign against No. 22 Boston College on a Sunday, also in the Kick-off Classic in New Jersey. The Buckeyes brought home a 38-6 winner, and wouldn’t play again for more than two weeks after the opener.
- The 1994 Buckeyes, which opened the season ranked 20th nationally, kicked off against Fresno State in Anaheim, California on a Monday night, winning 34-10. That Ohio State team would finish the season 9-4, capping the season with a 24-17 loss to No. 6 Alabama in the Citrus Bowl.
And also that one game in the 80s...
- In 1986, No. 9 Ohio State fell to No. 5 Alabama 16-10, once again in New Jersey but this time on a Wednesday. The Buckeyes would again have an early-season bye with more than two weeks before their next game.
Notice a pattern? In fact, the last time Ohio State played a mid-season non-Saturday game was Friday, Oct. 2 1959, when then-No. 14 Ohio State traveled to No. 11 USC, falling 17-0 to the Trojans in Woody Hayes’ ninth season in Columbus. Before that, though records are limited, the Buckeyes played two mid-season Wednesday games in 1904 against Muskingum and Kenyon.
(Weirdly, in the days before the final game of the season was dedicated to TTUN, the 1917 Buckeyes finished their season with a 28-0 win on a Thursday against Camp Sherman in Columbus.)
A dozen games in more than a hundred seasons of football. It’s certainly not the norm for Ohio State to depart from its Saturday tradition, especially in the middle of a season.