COLUMBUS — The biggest game of the season is again in the noon timeslot, and it’s again an Ohio State home matchup.
On Wednesday it was announced that Ohio State and Penn State, the country’s No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the initial College Football Playoff rankings released the night before, will kickoff against one another at noon on Nov. 23.
The start time, determined by FOX and the Big Ten, allows the conference’s marquee matchup this season to live in the “Big Noon Saturday” television slot that has regularly produced the weekend’s most-watched games all year long. When it’s all said and done, Ohio State will have appeared in that time slot six different times this season, underscoring the importance of the Buckeyes to the television partners and the league as the conference’s biggest and brightest show pony.
When they’ve not been featured on Fox, Ohio State has been nationally-televised — or on widespread cable affiliate Big Ten Network — every single week this season. Looking backward, the search would be far and wide to find the last time the Scarlet and Gray weren’t on TV.
For all the negative energy directed at Notre Dame’s long-time deal with NBC, at times it seems that Ohio State has its own network — and it’s all of them. ABC, ESPN, FOX, FS1, BTN, it doesn’t matter. There is no program in the country as visible and as recognizable as the Buckeyes are right now.
And that’s why the lamentations about the noon games and their impact on recruiting are overblown and unnecessary. Yes, as Ryan Day alluded to on Thursday, there are some unique travel situations that arise with an early start in Ohio, but the first-year coach hasn’t seen it be too much of a hindrance this point.
“If someone doesn’t have a bye week or is playing on a Friday night game, it’s hard to get him in if they live a little further away for a noon game,” Day said. “If it’s a night game, it’s a little easier. But for local schools and schools from Ohio and recruits from Ohio, they’re able to get here within a three- or four-hour radius of the school, they can get here for a noon game, which is good.
“But for the guys that are a little further away, it’s a little harder to get here.”
There’s truth to that, of course. It’s not easy for players from other parts of the country to arrive in time for a noon game, but that hasn’t hampered the Buckeyes much right now as their third-ranked 2020 recruiting class can attest.
Day obviously wants great game-day atmospheres, because everyone does. In 2016 and 2017, Ohio State’s biggest home games came against Michigan and Penn State. Neither game was in prime time, but good luck finding a better atmosphere anywhere in the country than the one in the Horseshoe on those day. It’s not when the Buckeyes run out of the tunnel at Ohio Stadium that matters, it’s who they are lining up against makes the environment on a Columbus game day.
It’s the competition facing the Buckeyes that turns the vibe among 105,000-plus fans from sawing logs into a buzzsaw, and that’s why those games are still being talked about by current Ohio State players who were in attendance as recruits to this day. But recruits being in Columbus but visits for huge games like that can be a double-edged sword. Those marquee games are the weekends when the Ohio State coaching staff has the least possible amount of time to build relationships with recruits. So, if there’s a rare on-the-field loss, that’s a bad presentation paired on and off the field.
Ohio State is aggressively recruiting quarterback C.J. Stroud, and before they knew the time of the Penn State game it was suggesting to the 4-star prospect that the best time for him to come visit would be after the season. The staff is aware that bringing him during the Nov. 23 weekend wouldn’t be conducive to real interpersonal growth. That’s why Day and Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni eschewed the huge “Junior Day” recruiting weekends last winter and also opted against the mega-recruiting Friday Night Lights bonanza that Pantoni had built last summer.
Ohio State 2020 commitments Kourt Williams, Clark Phillips, Lathan Ransom, Luke Wypler and Cody Simon are all out-of-state commitments who verballed to the program before ever seeing a game at Ohio Stadium. When J.K. Dobbins committed to Ohio State in February of 2016, he did so before ever stepping foot on campus in Columbus. The plan, as Day said at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, “is working.”
Relationships are what matters in recruiting, exposure is what matters in recruiting and comfort is what matters in recruiting. Playing for a program that regularly competes for a conference championship and national titles is what matters in recruiting.
Ohio State is hammering all those points, day in and day out, on the recruiting trail. They’re just doing it before sundown.
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