Ohio State Football owns High Noon, and by owns we mean forever cursed to play

About five years ago I wrote a stupid article.

That doesn’t narrow it down, but I’ll be more specific. About five years ago I wrote a stupid article about lunchtime games kicking ass for various nonsensical and contradictory reasons, which I won’t repeat here. Long story short, it was one of those things where you start writing because you think you need to make a relatively important point, and then about 70% of the way you realize how stupid you sound, but of it apart from point where you get too caught up in the concept so you say “the hell with that” and post it anyway and hope no one reads it. 99 comments later called me an idiot, and I was forced to reconsider my stance (or at least reconsider whether I should be so public in expressing my bad opinion).

However, if there is any doubt as to where my stance is in 2022, let me be clear: the veil has been lifted from my eyes and Heaven’s clarion call has revealed the truth to me.

Lunchtime games absolutely don’t kick ass.

Anything you would reasonably want to accomplish on any given fall Saturday, aside from staring open-mouthed at a TV screen, a 12pm start completely wipes out. Yes, assuming you wake up early enough to put on pants and scowl furiously at life, you probably have enough time to start but not finish a load of laundry, or maybe buy three independent items at CVS that you leave it on your kitchen counter for weeks, but if you want to stuff in some pumpkin-related frivolity, too, forget it. You have a three-and-a-half-hour lunchtime appointment that pretty much throws off any other plans you might have, and after that you’ll either take a nap or watch more football, or both.

And yet college football fandom just can’t tear itself away from the TV at lunchtime, and Ohio State is largely to blame.

First, let’s go back a little. Ohio State will play Notre Dame under floodlights in their season opener on September 2nd. This is extremely cool and good; two storied programs that rarely play each other despite geographical proximity, meeting on one of collegiate athletics’ hallowed grounds to battle it out to a guaranteed (probably?) packed house. There will be narration and drama and setting and everything else you need for a good Saturday night.

That’s exciting, but the other thing about the Fighting Irish arriving in town is that even a casual observer can know exactly which network the game will be broadcast on simply by knowing the start time. Cool night game? That must be ABC or ESPN. Noon or some other strange time? FOX or BTN or finally a streaming service whose name you only know because your Minecraft-obsessed 11-year-old nephew wrote it for you on the back of a napkin.

And maybe you’re thinking, “Won’t anyone get me out of these turbulent lunchtime games?!?” but I’ve got the same bad news for you: They’ll never go away, because no matter who’s broadcasting, the networks have discovered that Ohio State’s secret sauce is just what people want on a 12 noon Saturday.

Data via SportsMediaWatch.com

DATE

OPPONENT

TIME

NETWORK

SHARE REVIEWS

SPECTATOR

9-2-21

@Minnesota

8 p.m

FOX

3.5

6.295 million

9-11-21

Oregon

Midday

FOX

4.25

7,730m

09/18/21

Tulsa

3:30 p.m

FS1

0.9

1.831M

09/25/21

Akron

19:30 o’clock

BTN

N / A

1.075 million

10-2-21

@Rutgers

3:30 p.m

BTN

N / A

1.190M

10-9-21

Maryland

Midday

FOX

1.5

2,788M

10/23/21

@Indiana

19:30 o’clock

ABC

1.9

3,347M

10/30/21

Pennsylvania

19:30 o’clock

ABC

3.7

7.051M

11-6-21

@Nebraska

Midday

FOX

3.0

5,328M

11/13/21

Purdue

3:30 p.m

ABC

2.6

4,739M

11/20/21

State of Michigan

Midday

ABC

3.05

5,287M

11/27/21

@Michigan

Midday

FOX

8.1

15,893M

Try to take your eyes off the marquee games on this chart for a second and start comparing the Ohio State schedule’s Rutgers, Purdues and Indianas for 2021. It’s becoming quite obvious that supposedly “boring” matchups get a ratings boost when they get a Big Noon spot on FOX compared to similar night games, which directly defies all logic and common sense. Even on a stacked college football weekend, Ohio State versus Maryland at lunchtime just weeks later posted similar numbers to a special night game in Indiana (on a particularly dull weekend).

If you look at the starting times, there’s a lot of TBDs on Ohio State’s 2022 football schedule right now, and that’s by design. Networks want to give teams preferred time slots that they believe will draw the most viewers week in and week out. If Scott Frost is visited by the ghost of the still-living Tom Osborne, who will gift him $500 million to follow elite junior college transfers on his way to a perfect season, then FOX doesn’t want to stay with the Huskers with 3: 30 mid-October on FS1 and her only working camera.

And it’s not just the state of Ohio. For six of college football’s 13 regular-season weekends in 2021, a lunchtime game was the week’s most-watched competition. night games? Only three.

Like it or not, lunchtime games aren’t just here to stay, they’re becoming a permanent part of our way of watching college football. Ohio State and FOX have provided the template that proves just how successful a dazed, overcast midday can be, and hell we’re keeping an eye on 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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