Ohio State vs. Michigan more often than not has been primetime-worthy viewing. That certainly won’t be any different this year with No. 2 Ohio State taking on No. 3 Michigan in a battle of unbeaten teams fighting for a spot in the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff.
But no matter the stakes, no matter the quality of teams, Ohio State vs. Michigan will almost never be a primetime game. The contest is played at noon, with very few exceptions. In those exceptions, the game has been played at 1 p.m. or earlier.
Fans love the night games, as do networks hoping to capitalize on the gravity of the matchup. None of that matters for The Game.
Why is it always played at noon? The Sporting News dives in.
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Why is Michigan vs. Ohio State always played at noon?
It’s not exactly tradition, but it’s about as close to it as you can get. According to The Lantern, Ohio State and Michigan have faced one another between noon and 12:45 p.m. ET only 33 times and at or later than 1 p.m. just six times since 1980.
In “The Game of the Century” between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan in 2006, The Lantern reported the game was held at 3:30 p.m. ET. But since then, Eleven Warriors shows no games between the two played any later than noon.
And per Eleven Warriors, that’s the latest the game has been played dating back to at least 1950. Only one other time since 1950 has the game been played later than 2 p.m. ET.
There was, at a time, rumors that there might be consideration to having kickoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, with No. 3 Michigan visiting No. 2 Ohio State. In a 2016 interview with Cleveland.com, Martin Jarmond, current UCLA athletic director who used to handle scheduling for the Buckeyes, said even with the high-stakes matchup in 2016, there wasn’t much consideration to changing the time to 3:30 p.m. ET despite rumors of a time change.
“The way it is now, you need to lock those dates and times in with TV,” Jarmond said. “You don’t see it change much like that. I can’t speak to what happened 10 years ago [in 2006 because I wasn’t involved in that, but I just know now, once we determine (a kickoff time), it’s rare that you see a game time changed.”
Jarmond said he doesn’t believe the noon game will change, saying that the combination of the fans liking it at noon and the recent tradition of the game being played at noon make it unlikely that it will be at any different time.
“I can’t see that changing. I really think that it’s locked in at noon in that early slot and that’s what people have come to expect,” Jarmond said. “It’s been that way for a long time, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the way I look at it.”
The stakes are about as high as it can get on Saturday, and even with that, there’s no reason to expect the two teams to play at any time other than noon any time in the near future.