The wait is over.
The first part of the Big Ten's 2011 prime-time TV schedule is finally official. Seven Big Ten night games will be aired on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 this season.
Without further ado ...
UNLV at Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Notre Dame at Michigan, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nebraska at Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Notre Dame at Purdue, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Ohio State at Nebraska, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Wisconsin at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Wisconsin at Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
ESPN typically televises six Big Ten prime-time games per year, but a request for a seventh game was made and granted.
The Big Ten Network's prime-time football schedule is expected to be finalized soon, most likely next week. I have confirmed that every Big Ten team will have at least one prime-time game televised this season.
"When combined with what BTN is going to have, it's probably going to be our strongest prime-time schedule ever," Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner told ESPN.com. "Nebraska at Wisconsin, the kickoff [UNLV at Wisconsin], the first night game ever at Michigan, Ohio State-Wisconsin. It's just a really, really strong schedule."
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema talked to me last month about the increased national exposure his program has received because of its Rose Bowl run. The Badgers will be in the spotlight with four prime-time ABC/ESPN games, the most of any Big Ten team. Those back-to-back prime-time road games in October won't be easy.
Nebraska's first two Big Ten games as a league member will take place under the lights. It's a fitting introduction for the Huskers, who will get a taste of the electric atmosphere in Madison on Oct. 1 before getting a chance to show off their stadium the next week against Ohio State. "It speaks to the value that Nebraska brings, not only to the Big Ten but to college football," Rudner said.
Michigan State has hosted several of the more memorable Big Ten night games in recent memory (Notre Dame in 2010, Iowa in 2009). I think the Spartans get a big advantage by getting to host Wisconsin under the lights.
Sept. 10 will be a huge showcase day for the Big Ten. It features the first night game in Michigan Stadium history (Notre Dame at Michigan), which likely will be preceded by Alabama-Penn State at Beaver Stadium.
What are your thoughts on the first part of the Big Ten prime-time schedule?