Take Two: Michigan-MSU night games?

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
9:00
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Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

The Big Ten is warming up to the idea of more night games, but one showcase matchup that remains in its traditional daytime slot is Michigan-Michigan State. Things likely won't change soon, at least not in Ann Arbor, as Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said Monday of a potential night game, "We don't think that's a good idea." Brandon's counterpart, Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, is more open to the possibility. Today's Take Two topic is: Should Michigan and Michigan State step under the lights together or maintain the status quo?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

Longtime Big Ten blog readers know where I stand on this topic. Night games are great and more night games are even better for a league that should be doing everything it can to modernize and enhance its national image. College football has evolved into a nighttime spectacle. The biggest games are under the lights, usually in the ESPN/ABC Saturday night window. Teams and leagues should be doing all they can to get their games into those time slots, where they appeal not just locally and regionally but nationally. The prime-time element has enhanced the past two Michigan-Notre Dame games, and Michigan State's matchups against Notre Dame have received added interest when played under the lights at Spartan Stadium. Putting Michigan-Michigan State at night, while challenging in some ways, has great upside for both programs and the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargeHoke-Dantonio
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsMichigan State's Mark Dantonio and Michigan's Brady Hoke are a part of what has become one of the Big Ten's most intriguing rivalries.
Some folks will hate this, but there's only one Big Ten matchup that can be played at any time slot and receive national attention. The Game between Michigan and Ohio State carries that prestige. While I certainly wouldn't oppose having The Game at night, it can stay in its noon ET slot or move to 3:30 p.m. ET and still move the needle. Michigan-Michigan State, meanwhile, isn't always must-see TV outside of the region, but putting the game at night undoubtedly would build buzz.

Michigan's Brandon argues that moving the MSU game to prime time would "give everybody all day long to gear up for it. Hosting that at Michigan Stadium, that's probably taking that a step further than it needs to go." From a logistical standpoint, it absolutely brings more headaches with crowd control. But Alabama and LSU play night games, too, and last I checked, they "gear up" in the SEC, too. The Bedlam game between in-state rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State typically takes place at night. Plenty of heated rivalries around college football -- Florida-Tennessee, Texas-Texas A&M, USC-Notre Dame, Pitt-West Virginia, UCLA-USC -- have given prime time a shot. This is more of a cultural issue in the Big Ten, and I see a shift starting to take place as teams literally see the light and the benefits of night games. Here's hoping we soon see Wolverines-Spartans in prime time.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

Would Michigan-Michigan State be great at night? Sure. Does it need to be at night? Nah. I understand Brandon's concerns to a degree. The schools are located so close together that many fans attempt to drive home after the game. Throw in some all-day tailgating, and you've got some potential problems.

For me, hate plays at any time of day. Play a rivalry game at 8 a.m., and those who are into it are going to be fired up. (I remember running into some Spartans fans two years ago in East Lansing who planned on waking up at 4 a.m. to start, uh, preparing for the noon start between the Spartans and the Wolverines). Holding the game at night would give the game more national exposure, but this rivalry ultimately resonates most in the state of Michigan.

And the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy is growing more and more heated. For that, you can thank Michigan State's four-game win streak that was snapped last season in a thrilling comeback win by Michigan, the sustained success by Mark Dantonio and the arrival of Brady Hoke into the series. This isn't the most recognized rivalry in the Big Ten -- Ohio State and Michigan hold that designation by a large margin -- but it has been one of the most entertaining and intriguing on and off the field the past several years.

So if the two schools decide they want to play it at night, that would be great. If they play it at noon, 3:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, I'm still watching it. If the rest of the country isn't paying close attention, it's their loss.

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