Saturday Night May Be Alright
Night games in college football seem to convey an advantage on the home team not enjoyed with earlier kickoffs. It gives fans all day to tailgate and by game time, they are pretty
liquored juiced up. Ohio State is a three or three and a half point favorite for the contest at 7 pm CT Saturday in Columbus. If the kickoff were at 11 am or 2:30 pm, you wonder if that might be different. Nebraska would likely be the favorite at home and that line would likely grow with an evening kick. Will the hostile environment be the difference?
Watch the Line
Something interesting has happened in the last couple of days. OSU opened as a five-point favorite and now the line is getting close to three points. That might not seem like much, but Phil Steele's analysis of how favored teams lose shows that underdogs of 3 points or less win outright 48% of the time. Ohio St. tailback Jordan Hall is doubtful for the game, which might be part of the reason for the move. His backup, Carlos Hyde (who did some damage against Nebraska a year ago) only just returned from a knee sprain of his own. But that might not be the only reason that the line has moved.
Know Your History
Recent history hasn't been totally kind to the Buckeyes at night in Columbus. Last year, they did manage to get their best win of the season in a night game at home over Wisconsin, 33-27. In the three prior night games in the Horseshoe, they lost close games to Texas (22-25 in 2005), Penn State (6-13 in 2008), and USC (15-18 in 2009). Urban Meyer's worst month historically has been October. His winning percentage has been 86.5 in all other months and 71.4 in October. Certainly not bad, but it makes it the month you'd most want to face him.
NU has suffered some bad losses in night games on the road. UCLA this year may not qualify as it was a 4:50 kick on the West Coast. The game in Madison last year surely would. But so would last year's game at Wyoming. The penalty-marred 2010 Texas A&M game would count. Then again, the game that had people talking Heisman for Taylor Martinez at Kansas State that year was also played at night. The only night game on another campus in 2009 was the big comeback at Missouri that saw the Huskers score 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The year prior to that had a hideous outing at Oklahoma. Yes, Nebraska has lost some road games under the lights, but they've won some too.
A Matter of Routine
Might there be an advantage for Nebraska (albeit a slight one) to playing a night game on the heels of a night game. Prior to the aforementioned Missouri game, NU blanked Louisiana-Lafayette on homecoming night. Likewise, the K-State win came after a too-close game against South Dakota State under the lights. The A&M debacle did come after a good night win over Kansas. Likewise, the Wisconsin loss came after the Wyoming game. Of course, the big comeback over Ohio State (in Lincoln on homecoming night) then followed that loss in Madison. So a mixed bag there. Ohio State has yet to play a night game this season. It will be a first time for this team this year and under Urban Meyer.
All else equal, you wouldn't want to have to face an opponent on the road at night. But that fact alone doesn't make victory an impossible task. Pelini's teams have won conference road games under the lights before. They just need to find a way to do it again.