COLUMBUS — The biggest game of the Big Ten season is slated for the league’s new marquee time-slot: Ohio State and Wisconsin will kick off at noon.
The conference officially confirmed the start time for the battle between the Buckeyes and Badgers next week on Monday morning, setting the stage for a matchup between two top-six teams that will have enormous implications in the College Football Playoff race.
While the recent tradition for those quality matchups has been to shift them primetime under the lights, Ohio State had been preparing for an early start for a couple weeks when it was confirmed that FOX would have the broadcast rights in the Horseshoe. The network has had success putting its most important games in the noon window, and combining that push with the scheduled World Series game in the evening made it easy for the Buckeyes to pencil in that timeframe to host Wisconsin.
Up first: Ohio State travels to Northwestern this week for a Friday-night fight. But then the deck is cleared for a matchup that is already generating plenty of hype.
The Badgers have been one of the most surprising teams in the nation so far this season, riding a dominant defense and powerful rushing attack to an unbeaten start that has them up to No. 6 in the latest AP poll. That’s two slots behind the Buckeyes, who have also used that formula with success as the Silver Bullets have bounced back from the worst season in school history and a three-headed monster with J.K. Dobbins, Justin Fields and Master Teague in the backfield helping fuel the offense.
That collision between the two powerhouse programs always figured to be critical in the Big Ten race, but the preseason expectations probably would have had that matchup for the Buckeyes ranked no higher than third on their slate behind at least Michigan and Penn State. Instead, though, it’s become arguably the most important showdown in the league as a whole this year — with the potential to also be a preview of the Big Ten championship game since a loss next week wouldn’t rule out a rematch if both sides go on to win their respective divisions.