BTN releases 2014 prime-time football slate

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

BTN releases 2014 prime-time football slate

The Big Ten announced a six-game prime-time schedule for BTN/BTN2Go that is highlighted by a mid-November telecast and two appearances by Nebraska and Rutgers. Rutgers is the only Big Ten team that will play host to two BTN night tilts, kicking things off with a visit from East rival Penn State on Sept. 13 in the Scarlet Knights’ first Big Ten game. Rutgers also will welcome Michigan on Oct. 4.

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Nebraska will take part in two BTN prime-time telecasts, playing host to Illinois on Sept. 27 and traveling to Northwestern on Oct. 18. Also on Sept. 27, Ohio State will entertain Cincinnati, the only date that will feature two BTN prime-time games.

The prime-time slate concludes with Michigan State at Maryland on Nov. 15, as the Big Ten dips its toe into nighttime games in November. Earlier, ESPN/ABC announced it would televise Illinois at Ohio State on Nov. 1, giving the Big Ten two night games in November. Previously, Big Ten night games in November were taboo. But this is a new era.

Here is a look at each of the six BTN prime-time games.

[ MORE: Check out ESPN/ABC prime-time schedule ]

Saturday, Sept. 13

8 ET – Penn State at Rutgers. This game already was on the schedule before Rutgers joined the Big Ten. So, dovetailing it onto the menu was easy. In fact, this will be the Big Ten debut for Rutgers. And, it’s fitting for the Scarlet Knights to take the lid off this new era against an old rival. The Nittany Lions have dominated the series, forging a 22-2 mark and riding a seven-game winning streak. Rutgers last won in 1988, taking a 21-16 decision in State College. Penn State hasn’t been to New Brunswick since 1955, as the last six Rutgers “home” games in the series have been played at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. In fact, the last meeting between the schools was in 1995 in the Meadowlands, with Penn State taking a 59-34 triumph.

Saturday, Sept. 27
6 ET – Cincinnati at Ohio State. Urban Meyer gets to face-off vs. his alma mater in a fun intra-state clash. As you would suspect, the Buckeyes lead the series, 13-2, with 10 victories in a row. The teams have met four times fairly recently, with OSU taking a 34-20 victory in 1999; 23-19 in 2002; 27-6 in 2004; 37-7 in 2006. Before that, the schools hadn’t met since 1931. UC’s lone victories came back to back in 1896-97.

9 ET – Illinois at Nebraska. It will be fun to watch what figures to be a standout Nebraska defense clash with an Illinois offense that could be one of the best in the Big Ten. These teams have met just once since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, as Nebraska took a 39-19 win in Lincoln last season. The teams will meet again in Lincoln in a series Nebraska leads, 8-2-1. The Fighting Illini’s last victory came in Lincoln in 1924, 9-6

Saturday, Oct. 4
7 ET – Michigan at Rutgers. The “birthplace of college football” will play host to the all-time winningest college football program in the first meeting ever between these schools. Having a storied program like Michigan playing in the shadow of New York City in prime time is what this “new” Big Ten is all about. It’s also a great chance for the Scarlet Knights to measure themselves vs. a Big Ten standard bearer. Without Big Ten membership, no way, no how, does a program like Michigan visit Rutgers. Win (or at least make a game of it) and it will go a long way toward helping Rutgers build its program and brand.

Saturday, Oct. 18
7:30 ET – Nebraska at Northwestern. This Big Ten West clash looks like the best matchup among the six BTN prime-time tilts. This quickly has become one of the Big Ten’s most underrated rivalries, as the last three meetings have been iconic. The unranked Wildcats stunned the No. 10 Cornhuskers, 28-25, in Lincoln in 2011 with backup quarterback Kain Colter leading a second-half charge after Dan Persa (shoulder) got hurt. Nebraska needed a furious rally to overcome a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to win at Northwestern, 29-28, in 2012 after as last-ditch 53-yard field goal by the Wildcats missed. Last season, the Huskers needed a miraculous 49-yard Hail Mary pass from Ron Kellogg III to Jordan Westerkamp as time expired to take a heart-stopping 27-24 triumph.

Saturday Nov. 15
8 ET – Michigan State at Maryland. This should be an interesting battle between the Spartans’ always-stout defense and a Terrapins’ offense that should be Randy Edsall’s best in his four seasons. In fact, this could be a key battle to determine pecking order in the rugged Big Ten East. The schools have met just five times, with MSU holding a 4-1 edge. But they haven’t met since 1950, when the Terps stunned the No. 2-ranked Spartans with a 34-7 win in East Lansing. That was Michigan State’s lone loss of the season. MSU hasn’t been to College Park since 1944, where the first—and only–meeting in the series took place.

[ MORE: Photos: Maryland, Rutgers excited about BTN prime-time games ]

Across all networks, Ohio State and Nebraska lead the way with four prime-time games.

OSU will play three in Columbus: Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 (ESPN/ABC); Cincinnati on Sept. 27; Illinois on Nov. 1 (ESPN/ABC). The Buckeyes also will play at night at Penn State on Oct. 25 (ESPN/ABC). That’s three ESPN/ABC telecasts; one BTN.

Nebraska, which also plays at 10:30 ET Sept. 13 at Fresno State, will have two on ESPN/ABC and two on BTN. In addition to the BTN telecasts, the Huskers will play host to Miami (Fla.) on Sept. 20 and go to Michigan State on Oct. 4 on ESPN/ABC.

Penn State will have three prime-time games, going to Michigan on Oct. 11 and welcoming Ohio State on Oct. 25 on ESPN/ABC, in addition to its one BTN appearance at Rutgers. Michigan also has three prime-time games, starting with a trip to Notre Dame on Sept. 6, the BTN game at Rutgers on Oct. 4 and the aforementioned Penn State date..

Michigan State and Illinois all will have two prime-time games, while Wisconsin will have one, opening the season Aug. 30 vs. LSU in Houston..

The Big Ten schools with no prime-time games are Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Purdue.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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