Night Games in November Magnify Home Field Advantage
It sounded more like a rule than a simply a guideline, but apparently the practice of the Big Ten not playing night games in November wasn't written in stone. It hasn't happened since 2008 and that was an indoor game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Still, Big Ten commissioner John Delany indicated that the door is open to schedule such games. If so, any one of Nebraska's big November games could wind up at night. If they're played at home, that could provide a considerable advantage. On the road, it could make things much much tougher.
It's not hard to decode why a game played in the evening provides a greater advantage to the home team than one played earlier in the day. The fans have more time to tailgate which means they stumble into their seats with more alcohol in their system. That produces a louder and more raucous environment. Noise can be very disruptive to opposing offenses. Not to mention that it often appears to sway officials.
The Huskers have scored a lot of big wins at night. They've also taken some pretty bad losses on the road in night games. The 2013 schedule has Nebraska playing five games in the month of November. The final game, a home date against Iowa, seems likely to be played during the day since the Hawkeyes don't appear on the cusp of a season that would draw much national interest. The other four November games might be another story.
Northwestern comes to Lincoln on November 2. By that point, the Wildcats may have two to four losses. But if they manage to score wins at California, Iowa, and possibly even Wisconsin, they could come in at 7-1 (it's hard to forecast a win over Ohio State, even in Evanston). If the Huskers are 8-0 that could make the game a huge one.
The next weekend is a big road game for NU at Michigan and appears likely to decide the division. It would certainly help the Wolverines to play the game at night. Thankfully, UM wasn't one of the teams lobbying the hardest for night games though. So maybe they'd prefer to play the game in daylight.
The Spartans could be on the verge of major improvement. That's due in large part to getting to face a Leaders division slate of Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue. They could be 8-2 and coming off of a bye as they head to Lincoln on Nov. 16. If they score an upset at Notre Dame or hosting Michigan, they'd be 9-1. That would certainly make them prime time material for ABC or ESPN.
Penn State seems likely to have at least two losses by the time they host Nebraska on Nov. 23. That might be good enough to score a night game. Of course, if the Nittany Lions take a bigger step backward this Fall and have four losses by the 23rd, the appeal may not be so strong.
Night games in November certainly could change the complexion of the 2013 season. Home field advantages grow and could become the tipping point that decides who plays in Indianapolis and who stays home.