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.

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Comments 8 comments so far

It seems that all the players do not know what to do all day awaiting a night game. There has got to be something better than having them all bounce off the walls of their hotel rooms. Something that does not require any exertion but keeps their minds occupied instead of watching the clock and then being overly “amped” when they hit the field leading to mistakes. What is the pre-game plan for the players in Columbus before departing to the stadium besides eat and watch TV where all the pundits make their predictions of how we will play?

Honestely Steve, you can drive yourself crazy with that stuff!

What is it that you really want to know?  That Neb has a good shot at this game?  Of course they do!  Yeah, there are some things stacked against them with the venue and time, but those things will probably not be the deciding factor.

How each team plays will be will be decisive.  And for that we have to see.  I guess I’m old enough now that I have the patience to wait until late Sat night before I start with the woulda, shoulda, couldas.  :)

Everyone enjoy - and we can praise and condemn Sunday and next week.

We will have to see who has the mental break down first. LOL

Talk is fun, bottom line if both teams execute, by the way that is what we are to do every day   NU wins.

The last 2 night games Ohio State has lost at home (assuming my memory isn’t failing - which can be a big assumption) was Texas the year they won the nat’l championship and USC just a couple of years ago.  In both cases, the game was extremely tight to the end and Vince Young and Matt Barkley led great final drives to win.

Great QB play is not the only factor in winning a game like that on the road, but it certainly is a major one.

I think both teams play well. But the QB with the least mistakes wins. It’s up to Taylor, and primarily his passing game. If that’s clicking, it will open up more and better passing for one, but it will also open up the running game too.
If Nebraska plays up to it’s level instead of shooting itself in the foot, and we get excellent play calling, it stands an excellent chance of winning. Look out however for the game getting away from us, like what almost happened to a MUCH inferior Wisconsin team. If they get up 2-3 TD’s and have momentum, it might turn ugly. But I don’t think so. I think our defense, and our defensive and offensive lines have matured throughout the season and are playing some pretty good ball right now. And this is not the Ohio State powerhouse it once was…it might be soon with Urban at the helm, but not yet. Again, another possible break for Nebraska to capitolize on in it’s run for the Roses. It might very well be so close that either team can win…depending largely how the ball bounces.
There will be football fans from all over the country watching us…huge chance for us to bring our program back to national respectability, for boosting recruiting and our overall programs sake, I hope they don’t stink it up on national TV like Wisconsin and Michigan last year.

If my memory serves me right (which is a big assumption these days), the last home night losses for OSU were to Texas - the year they won the NC and to USC several years ago.  Both of those games were tight to the end, and both Vince Young and Matt Barkley led game winning drives on their last possession.

The thing I would pull from that is that clutch QB play is a big factor in winning these types of games on the road.  The comforting thing for Husker fans should be that Martinez seems plenty capable of delivering that kind of play.  The discomforting thing is you never know whether they will actually do it!

The winner of this game will be declared the best in the BIG, but will have to prove it for 6 more weeks.  The loser will have a hill to climb.  Neb can lose this game and still be the Legends champ, go to the BIG championship and on to the BCS.  Ohio State can still be the Leaders champ, but with no BIG championship or bowl game, their biggest goal would be taken off the table with a loss.  So, there is a lot at stake in Columbus Sat night for both teams.

Oops, forgot about the PSU game in 2008.  See what I am talking about?  :)

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