More Big Ten night games will be good – but it's going to take fans time to adjust

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Big Ten night games should be special occasions – not obligations. 

That belief is going to change with the Big Ten's NBC television contract whether Big Ten fans like it or not. You might not like it, but you better get used to it. 

That was evident after news that Michigan State and Penn State will play a prime-time game on Black Friday at Ford Field in Detroit. This comes two days after ESPN's Pete Thamel reported about the hurdles new Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti faces in completing the deal with NBC after Kevin Warren's departure. The term "horse trading" was used. Some Big Ten fans might use a different regional colloquialism. 

"Horse ... "

More night games are going to pile up. It's at minimum bizarre and at worst gross at first glance to see a Ford Field Friday prime-time game in November. It's watered down that belief that prime-time games are special occasions. 

According to the report, "There's been pushback from a number of schools, including Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, to play those late-November night games under the new contract." 

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Well, duh. This might seem weird to outsiders of the region, but if you ask a Big Ten fan what their preferred time slot for a game is, then you might be surprised at how many say noon or 3:30 p.m. ET instead of a prime-time game. That afternoon slot is considered prime time, and prime time used to be a special occasion – usually for a non-conference games – think No. 2 Texas at No. 4 Ohio State in 2005. 

The huge conference games rarely touch prime time. The 2006 showdown between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan – the crown jewel of the rivalry – was in the 3:30 p.m. slot. Night games can be special, but not when it's Ohio State beating Toledo 77-21 or Michigan beating Hawaii 56-10. Those were night games last season, by the way. 

Ohio State played its first home night game in 1985. They have only played 26 night games since. The Buckeyes have played just 10 night home games against Big Ten opponents. 

Michigan played its first home night game in 2011. The Wolverines have played 13 night home games, including seven against Big Ten opponents. Last year’s prime-time matchup against Michigan State ended with an ugly altercation in the Michigan Stadium tunnel

Add it up, and that's 40 total night home games between the two heavyweights in the conferences. It is to see why there is resistance. 

Then there is Penn State, which has made a yearly spectacle out of the "White Out" each season. Is it really a "White Out" if you have two or three prime-time games at home every year? That is a gray area. Ditto for Iowa and Kinnick Stadium and Wisconsin and Camp Randall Stadium. 

Why the reservations about November? The potential for inclement weather is only part of the answer. By November, the Buckeyes and Wolverines are gearing their season toward The Game – which is almost always played – and always should be played – in the noon window. The Black Friday matchup between Iowa and Nebraska has been a success, and perhaps the Michigan State-Penn State rivalry can become a Black Friday Night tradition that serves as the proper appetizer for The Game. 

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Should Big Ten fans warm up to the idea? They were left with no choice when the conference added USC and UCLA – which are two- and three-hours away depending on the time zone. When the Trojans and Bruins travel across the country to play the heavyweights and vice versa, those games are going to be in prime time. 

The NBC prime-time package will lead to more revenue and higher ratings when it is completed. Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge – a former Penn State quarterback -  and Kathryn Tappen is a first-rate crew. Joshua Perry – a former Ohio State linebacker and one of the rising stars in broadcasting – is part of the coverage, too. Early-season non-conference prime-time games in 2023 between Penn State and West Virginia and Ohio State will Notre Dame will be wins for the Big Ten. 

Will that tug at the soul of a region of a country that is set in its ways when it comes to when, where and how it likes its Big Ten football? It’s too late for that conversation now. The "horse trading" is in progress, and those November night games are going to be part of the Big Ten experience from now on. 

Those special occasions are now obligations. There is no difference now. 

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Bill Bender is a national college football writer for The Sporting News.