When are you most ready for some football?
Morning person? The Huskers have three of those on the schedule already after Thursday’s partial schedule release. That Nov. 10 Illinois game seems like prime 11 am territory, too, though kickoff time for that one will be announced in the two-week window. Even if the Huskers don’t end up facing the Illini in the morning, I think it’s reasonable to assume at least one more game will kick off before noon, meaning a third of the regular season slate will be morning games.
Nebraska played two 11 am games last season, two in 2016 and three in 2015, going 3-4 in the early slot under Mike Riley. Personally this is my preferred time, but my Saturday football experience isn’t typical either. Getting to the stadium at 7 am, covering a game and getting out by early evening is about as close to a typical work day in terms of regular office hours as this job offers. But I don’t expect anyone else to care about that. From a fan’s perspective a later kick is probably more convenient, and potentially fun, for most.
(There is also the recruiting implication with morning games, though I suspect that will be less of a factor in 2018. With an early signing period again in December, I think we’ll see more programs “stash” their visits for later in the fall and hope to make an impression on recruits closer to signing day. Nebraska doesn’t have a ton of choice this year anyway. With just one home game in October the Huskers either have to go early or late with official visits, and I bet the visits will be heavier on the “late” side.)
I suspect, however, that Scott Frost might be just fine with as many morning kickoffs as the schedule makers can offer given his preference for morning practices.
“Listen, our kids will be better football players, better students and better citizens on campus when we get our work done in the morning,” Frost said after Nebraska’s first morning practice this spring. “Even when I was a student, I was a decent student but if there was a choice to get up in the morning and go to class or stay in bed sometimes I made the wrong choice. None of these guys are going to miss practice, so we’re going to get them up and get them moving.
“We’ll have better attendance in classes, we’ll have better attentiveness in classes and these guys are going to flourish better on and off the field because of it.”
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley is not in that camp. The Sooners will open the season with three opening-time-slot games.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley also was miffed about the game times. He joked during a visit with boosters and reporters in Tulsa that those early kickoffs might not be optimal for recruiting.
“I’m glad we did a bunch of [spring] visits after they gave us all those 11 a.m. kickoffs,” he said.
But he also discussed the early kickoff times with Castiglione soon after learning about them.
“I had to talk to [AD] Joe [Castiglione] to blow off some steam before I came in here on that one,” Riley said. “I don’t agree with it, but we’re not only ones making the call on it.”
Two of the Huskers’ six announced games landed in what I’d call neutral territory, or the classic 2:30 pm window. The Colorado game in Week 2 is then and will get a national broadcast on ABC. Purdue, which I think is a pivotal game for the Huskers in 2018, will kick off at either 2:30 or 3:00.
That leaves just one night game announced thus far, the season opener against Akron at 7 pm. Thank the arrival of Scott Frost for that primetime exposure on Fox. In a typical year competition for eyeballs would be stiff on college football’s opening weekend, but this year’s slate is somewhat subdued compared to seasons past.
Michigan and Notre Dame is the biggest game, kicking off at 6:30 pm. Thirty minutes later Louisville and Alabama get underway on ABC, a neutral site game that was likely scheduled to be a “showcase” game but doesn’t feel like much of one. The third biggest game in primetime is probably Cincinnati at UCLA, which I suppose is fitting. Those watching at home can see Chip Kelly’s return to college football for an hour, then flip to Fox to see a different version of the offense that set the sport on fire earlier this decade.
Have strong feelings about the optimum start time? Feel free to vote in our new fan poll.
The Grab Bag
- Did you know the AAC was headquartered in Providence, R.I.? Doesn’t matter now as the conference is moving to Dallas in hopes of raising its profile.
- How the SEC is bracing for college football betting.
- ESPN ranks the toughest three-game stretches in college football this season.
- ICYMI: Mike Babcock looks at the history of junior college running backs at Nebraska and Greg Smith offers an update on a 2019 quarterback visiting campus this weekend.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.