Michigan vs. Ohio State.
It’s a historic rivalry, and this year “The Game” is between the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 12 team in the country. It has all the makings of a primetime college football ratings monster, so you check the schedule to see what time it starts and it’s … noon?
If you’re a big-time college football fan, you know noon is usually when all of the bad games are played. Rarely do you see two highly ranked opponents face off so early in the day. So why is this game different? Well, that’s how it’s always been.
Maybe “always” is a bit of a stretch. Fans might remember the 2006 “Game of the Century” between these two schools was played at 3:30 p.m. instead. The people over at Eleven Warriors also made a helpful chart in 2014 showing the start times for The Game throughout its history, and although it hasn’t always been directly at 12 p.m., the matchup has pretty much always been played in the afternoon.
From Eleven Warriors’ analysis:
“Noon kickoffs in this series did not become a thing until the mid-1980s and then we quickly see a consistent run of noon starts every year of the 90s and indeed, every year but four since 1990.”
There’s not really a logical reason why it’s at noon, other than it’s tradition. There were discussions in 2016 about changing that year’s kickoff time to 3:30 p.m., and Martin Jarmond, who was behind Ohio State’s scheduling, told Cleveland.com he didn’t see that starting time changing any time soon.
“I think that the tradition and having it at noon, I think fans like that and I know we like that and can count on that,” Jarmond said. “I can’t see that changing. I really think that it’s locked in at noon in that early slot and that’s what people have come to expect.
“It’s been that way for a long time, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the way I look at it.”
Even though there’s no direct evidence of this, another part of the reason could be that teams in the North typically play earlier games. The weather certainly plays a factor in that as well being that it gets really cold in the North this time of the year.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said as much to Cleveland.com in 2014.
“I have not been asked to play it at night,” Smith said. “But if I was, it would be very difficult to think I would agree to do that, primarily because of the time of year.”
So there you have it: tradition, history and perhaps even weather makes it so “The Game” is at noon.