Earlier this week, ESPN and ABC announced their slate of primetime games involving Big Ten teams -- and Iowa was not invited to join in the night-game fun.
SEP. 6: Virginia Tech at Ohio State, 7 PM CT (ESPN)
SEP. 20: Miami at Nebraska, 7 PM CT (ESPN or ESPN2)
OCT. 4: Nebraska at Michigan State, 7 PM CT (ABC or ESPN or ESPN2)
OCT. 11: Penn State at Michigan, 6 PM CT (ESPN or ESPN2)
OCT. 25: Ohio State at Penn State, 7 PM CT (ABC or ESPN or ESPN2)
NOV. 1: Illinois at Ohio State, 7 PM CT (ABC or ESPN or ESPN2)
As you can see, Iowa isn't the only Big Ten team excluded from ESPN/ABC's Big Ten night game schedule -- only six different B1G schools are represented across those six games (Ohio State features in a whopping three separate games). The inclusion of Illinois as one of the teams tabbed for a night game elicited some grumbles, but that game seems to be included entirely because of their opponent, not for the Illini themselves. (Although perhaps ABC/ESPN just wants to spotlight those slick new Fighting Illini unis.) Ohio State has Urban Meyer and a strong Heisman Trophy contender in Braxton Miller and figures to be in the hunt for one of the four spots in the first-ever College Football Playoff. It's not too shocking that they'd double (or triple) down on Ohio State if possible.
One of the things that provides a great deal of optimism for Iowa's 2014 season is also the very same thing that likely hamstrings their ability to get a game in primetime, though: the schedule. In case you've forgotten it...
AUG. 30: UNI
SEP. 6: Ball State
SEP. 13: Iowa State
SEP. 20: at Pitt
SEP. 27: at Purdue
OCT. 4: BYE
OCT. 11: Indiana
OCT. 18: at Maryland
OCT. 25: BYE
NOV. 1: Northwestern
NOV. 8: at Minnesota
NOV. 15: at Illinois
NOV. 22: Wisconsin
NOV. 29: Nebraska
The Nebraska game is already locked into an 11 AM Central Time start in its Black Friday spot; that's nice for national exposure, but bad for potential night game fun, since it takes one of Iowa's best potential opponents for a night game off the table. In fact, long term scheduling arrangements are working to stymie Iowa's night game potential -- both in 2014 and in the forseeable future. Two of the six games tabbed by ESPN/ABC are non-conference games, Ohio State v. Virginia Tech and Nebraska v. Miami. Those are games that look interesting on paper and feature intriguing inter-conference opponents. As you probably recall, Iowa is locked into playing Iowa State during non-conference play for many years to come. SPOILER ALERT: Iowa-Iowa State games are not often considered "interesting" or "intriguing" by anyone outside the state of Iowa. With the Big Ten moving to a 9-game conference schedule in 2016, Iowa is also set to lose what little non-conference scheduling flexibility they still had, too; between the demand for seven home games and the need to schedule Iowa State every year, the odds of Iowa scheduling a truly interesting non-conference opponent in football reside somewhere between "slim" and "never gonna happen." So that cuts outs one option for primetime action for Iowa.
That leaves Iowa at the mercy of the Delanybot 9000 and the conference schedule that it spits out and when there are years like this one, when it spits out a fixture list that doesn't include Ohio State or Michigan or Michigan State or Penn State... well, that might be good for Iowa's W-L record (he said, hopefully), but it's not good for convincing the schedule-makers to put Iowa in a game under the lights. Take a look at this year's slate again -- which games in September or October look interesting enough to warrant the night game treatment? Maybe Indiana? In terms of compelling matchups, Iowa's schedule is back-loaded: there are potential West Division title deciders against Wisconsin and Nebraska late in November and a game with perennial thorn in our side Northwestern to kick off the month -- that's really where the meat of Iowa's schedule lies.
Of course, November night games have been all but verboten in the Big Ten in years past, largely due to the weather (perhaps you've heard, but it can get pretty cold in most Big Ten locales when the calendar flips to January). There's some indication that's changing -- the aforementioned Nov. 1 Illinois-Ohio State game is a start and the comments in this ESPN article indicate that attitudes about November night games in the Big Ten are changing -- but I still wouldn't hold my breath to see Iowa-Wisconsin added to the night game list.
There are still more night game announcements to come -- the BTN has yet to announce which games they've selected for primetime broadcasts this fall (that announcement is expected next week) and it's possible that ABC could add a few more games in November, since they like to keep a fluid schedule for that month that allows them to pick some of the best possible matchups they can for primetime games then. I think there's a decent shot at Iowa getting a primetime game on BTN -- either Indiana or Northwestern seems like a possibility and, who knows, maybe Iowa's visit to College Park will be a good enough excuse for the BTN to put the Terps under the lights -- so we'll have to wait and see if Iowa will be getting the night game on this year or not.