Ohio State Football Owns High Noon, and By "Owns" We Mean "Is Forever Cursed to Play At"

By Johnny Ginter on May 20, 2022 at 10:10 am

About five years ago I wrote a dumb article.

That doesn't narrow it down, but I'll be more specific. About five years ago I wrote a dumb article about how noon games kick ass for a variety of nonsensical and contradictory reasons that I won't rehash here. Long story short, it ended up being one of those things that you start to write thinking that you've got a relatively salient point to make and then like 70% of the way through you start to realize how dumb you sound, but by that point you're too invested in the concept so you say "the hell with it" and publish it anyway and hope no one reads it. 99 comments later calling me a moron, and I was forced to reevaluate my stance (or, at least, reevaluate whether I should state my bad opinions so publicly).

Anyway, if there's any doubt about where my stance is in 2022, let me be clear: the veil was lifted from my eyes, and the clarion call of the heavens revealed to me the truth.

Noon games absolutely do not kick ass.

Anything fun that you might reasonably want to accomplish on any given fall Saturday in addition to staring slack-jawed at a television screen is completely wiped out by a 12 p.m. start. Yes, provided you wake up early enough to put on pants and squint angrily at life, you probably have enough time to start but not finish a load of laundry, or maybe buy three unrelated items at CVS that you'll leave on your kitchen counter for weeks, but if you also want to cram in some gourd-related frivolity, forget about it. You have a three-and-a-half hour appointment at noon that will powerbomb pretty much any other plans you might have, and afterward you will be committed to either a nap or watching more football or both.

And yet, college football fandom at large simply can't pry themselves away from the TV at noon, and Ohio State is largely to blame.

Let's backtrack a little bit first. Ohio State is going to play Notre Dame under the lights in their season opener on September 2nd. This is extremely cool and good; two storied programs that rarely play each other despite a geographical proximity, meeting in one of the hallowed grounds of college athletics to do battle in front of what will assuredly (probably?) be a packed house. There will be narratives and drama and environment and everything else you need for a good Saturday evening.

That's exciting, but the other thing about the Fighting Irish coming into town is that even a casual observer can know exactly what network the game will be broadcasted on by dint of simply knowing the start time. Cool night game? That's got to be ABC or ESPN. Noon or some other weird time? FOX or BTN or, eventually, some streaming service that you only know the name of because your Minecraft-obsessed 11 year old nephew wrote it down on the back of napkin for you.

And you might be thinking to yourself, "will no one rid me of these turbulent noon games?!?" but I have same bad news for you: they're never ever going away because no matter who is broadcasting, networks have discovered that the Ohio State secret sauce is exactly the flavor people want at 12 p.m. on a Saturday.

Data via SportsMediaWatch.com
9-2-21 @Minnesota 8 p.m. FOX 3.5 6.295M
9-11-21 Oregon Noon FOX 4.25 7.730M
9-18-21 Tulsa 3:30 p.m. FS1 0.9 1.831M
9-25-21 Akron 7:30 p.m. BTN N/A 1.075M
10-2-21 @Rutgers 3:30 p.m. BTN N/A 1.190M
10-9-21 Maryland Noon FOX 1.5 2.788M
10-23-21 @Indiana 7:30 p.m. ABC 1.9 3.347M
10-30-21 Penn State 7:30 p.m. ABC 3.7 7.051M
11-6-21 @Nebraska Noon FOX 3.0 5.328M
11-13-21 Purdue 3:30 p.m. ABC 2.6 4.739M
11-20-21 Michigan State Noon ABC 3.05 5.287M
11-27-21 @Michigan Noon FOX 8.1 15.893M

Try and peel your eyes away from the marquee games in this table for a second, and start to compare the Rutgers, Purdues, and Indianas of Ohio State's 2021 schedule. It becomes pretty obvious that ostensibly "boring" matchups are given a ratings boost when given a Big Noon spot on FOX compared to similar night games, flying directly in the face of all logic and common sense. Even in a stacked college football weekend, Ohio State versus Maryland at noon pulled in similar numbers as a featured Indiana night game (in a particularly boring weekend) just a few weeks later.

Right now, if you look at the starting times, there are a lot of TBD's on Ohio State's 2022 football schedule, and that's by design; networks want to give preferred timeslots to teams that they think will bring in the most viewers on a week-to-week basis. If Scott Frost gets visited by the ghost of the still-alive Tom Osborne who gifts him 500 million dollars to go after elite junior college transfers en route to a perfect season, then FOX doesn't want to be stuck with the Huskers at 3:30 in mid-October on FS1 and their one working camera.

And it isn't just Ohio State. In six out of the 13 regular season college football weekends in 2021, a noon game was the most viewed contest of the week. Night games? Just three.

So, like it or not, noon games aren't just here to stay, they're becoming a staple of how we watch college football. Ohio State and FOX have provided the template that proves just how successful a groggy, bleary-eyed nooner can be, and hell: we keep watching them.

Notre Dame at night in the Shoe will be a lot of fun. Just don't expect much more of that in 2022.

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