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Daygame (ah-ah-ah) Fighter of the Nightgame (ah-ah-ah)

Matthew Holst

Last week we found out the ABC and ESPN primetime games involving Big Ten teams in 2014.  Iowa was absent from all of those games.  This week we learned what football games would be under the lights on BTN this fall.  And once again Iowa is absent from that list.

9/13: Penn State at Rutgers
9/27: Cincinnati at Ohio State, Illinois at Nebraska
10/4: Michigan at Rutgers
10/18: Nebraska at Northwestern
11/15: Michigan State at Maryland

Woo.  Anytime you can show not one but two Rutgers games in your highest profile timeslot, you've gotta do it.  (I know, I know -- New York media market.)

Between this list and the ABC/ESPN list this isn't the 100% final list of primetime games involving Big Ten teams in 2014... but it's pretty close.

In short: don't expect to see many games get "flexed" into primetime and you definitely shouldn't hold your breath on an Iowa game being "flexed."  (The road game at Pitt is probably the most likely possibility for that to occur, as the American Athletic Conference has yet to announce their primetime games for 2014.)

In large part, the lack of a primetime game on Iowa's schedule is down to the schedule, which is long on winnable games, but short on marquee matchups.  Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State are all missing on this slate.  Iowa's premiere non-conference matchup is probably Iowa State (depending on your feelings re: Pitt) and it will probably be a cold day in hell before Gary Barta, the University of Iowa administration, or the Iowa City Police Department give the green light to another Iowa-Iowa State game at night  given past history there.  Iowa's two best conference games are against Wisconsin and Nebraska and the latter game is locked into an 11 AM kickoff on national TV on the day after Thanksgiving (which is arguably better exposure for the program than an actual primetime kickoff would be).  The Iowa-Wisconsin game would be a tantalizing possibility for a primetime showdown, but it's also slated for November 22, which is deep enough into November that cold or otherwise nasty weather is a real possibility.

Then again, the schedule alone isn't everything -- just look at those Rutgers or Maryland games or the Northwestern-Nebraska game tabbed for a primetime start by BTN (maybe they're banking on another bananas finish in that game).  Of course, Rutgers and Maryland's games on primetime come against storied B1G opponents (Michigan, Penn State) or the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion (Michigan State).  It's safe to say that a game against Iowa doesn't have quite as much cachet.  It also speaks to a concern that several people expressed when the Big Ten was realigned into more geographically sensible (and less-pretentiously monikered) divisions: that the teams in the East (with its powerhouse roster of teams) would get more exposure than their Western counterparts.  With East Division teams accounting for 14 appearances and West Division teams accounting for  just 7 primetime appearances next falll, there definitely appears to be some inequality issues cropping up already.

This marks the second consecutive year that Iowa will not have a "true" night game at Kinnick Stadium; the last primetime kickoff at at Kinnick was the 2012 debacle against Penn State.  Iowa did play a quasi-night game on the road last year -- the game against Iowa State kicked off at roughly 5 PM and the bulk of the second half was played after the sun went down.  While not all fans like night games, it's hard to argue that they're not a selling point for recruits and a great way for a program to get additional exposure.  And even if not all fans like night games, it's difficult to dispute that the atmosphere and energy in the stadium isn't a bit more amped up for a night game than an 11 AM kickoff.  So it hurts not to have any on the schedule.

When might Iowa play a regular season game under the lights again?  It's tricky.

A) Iowa probably isn't going to play another BCS opponent in a non-conference so long as Iowa State is on the schedule -- and the Iowa-Iowa State game is unlikely to be a night game (at least when the game is in Iowa City)

B) One of Iowa's best annual conference games -- against Nebraska -- is locked into a national timeslot already (11 AM, Friday after Thanksgiving).

C) For weather-related reasons, the Big Ten (or the schools) are probably not going to look too hard at night games the last few weeks of November.

That means Iowa has roughly a 4-6 week window in each schedule for a potential night game -- and if games against buzz-generating opponents like intra-division rival Wisconsin or inter-division foes Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State don't happen to fall in that window, the only real hope for a night game is that TV throws a curveball and decides to put something like Iowa-Northwestern in primetime (hey, they did in 2011 and it ended up being perhaps the most entertaining Iowa-Northwestern game of the last decade)

Iowa's 2015 schedule is just as bereft of the Eastern division heavyweights as their 2014 slate, but an October 3 trip to Madison to take on Wisconsin might draw some interest from TV -- especially if Iowa and Wisconsin vie for the Western division crown this year.  2016 sees Wisconsin (10/22) and Michigan (11/12) visit Kinnick; that might be the best chance for another night game at Kinnick Stadium, barring a left-field choice like the ones mentioned above.