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Does It Really Matter When and Who Televises Nebraska vs. Texas?

Ever since the Lincoln Journal-Star rehashed the story about ABC pre-empting Saturday Night Football for NASCAR on October 16th, fans have been discussing when and who should be televising this game. (Truth be told, this is not new news; CN readers have known about this for nearly six months, and I reminded folks of it earlier this week.) So there won't be an ABC Primetime telecast that week...does anybody REALLY doubt that this game won't be televised?

In some respects, it's just idle speculation in the summertime when the heat index goes to sultry, oppressive levels. That doesn't mean it's completely irrelevant, though. This game presents Nebraska with an opportunity to reestablish itself as among the national elite. Nebraska hasn't won a conference championship since 1999, and hasn't defeated a Top 20 19 team since 2001. Heck, Nebraska hasn't beaten a ranked team since 2006 (Texas A&M). (Correction: Oklahoma and Arizona were ranked when Nebraska defeated them last season...)

So yes, this game is likely to present Nebraska with an opportunity to make a statement on the national stage. And if you are going to make a statement, you want to make it in front of the best audience.

Even though most Huskers fans will find a way to either make it to the game or watch it on television no matter when it's televised, the network and time of the broadcast do matter. Morning kickoffs probably won't attract as much attention on the West Coast, and make it nearly impossible for arrange for recruits to be able to experience the atmosphere. Not to mention, the compressed pregame tailgating ritual means a crowd that might not be as lubricated as it would be later in the day. Afternoon kickoffs on ABC are usually regional broadcasts, meaning that some people might have to purchase ESPN GamePlan to watch the game. (Again, Husker fans will pay it...but the casual fan probably won't, meaning less people will watch it...) Cable broadcasts sometimes run into contract issues; some people don't get every network, and some people don't have high definition cable broadcasts.

The Big XII Conference has only announced one broadcast window for October 16th: FSN at 11 am. Everything else is up for debate. ESPN already has planned Ohio State vs. Wisconsin for a 6:15 pm kickoff on either ESPN or ESPN2. CBS has announced Ole Miss at Florida for an afternoon telecast. I really don't see another marquee game on the schedule that day. With that in mind, I see the following possibilities:

  • 11 am ABC (like in 2006, ABC will bring their Saturday Night team to Lincoln, and that means GameDay in Lincoln as well since there's no way to get Kirk Herbstreit and Erin Andrews to another game)
  • 2:30 pm ABC regional (Most of the country would get NU/UT...but in Big Ten or ACC regions, this game drops to ESPN GamePlan.)
  • 6:00 pm ESPN (On occasion, Brent Musberger and Herbstreit have switched off assignments to cover an SEC game in primetime on ESPN since CBS has exclusive rights to the SEC for over-the-air broadcasts.)

Unlikely targets would be a broadcast on FSN or Versus; it would take several losses by both schools to relegate this game to these outlets. I also think the ABC regional broadcast is unlikely as well; I just think that this game is going to be big enough to demand a national broadcast..though again, a couple of losses by either Nebraska or Texas, and it could be an afternoon kickoff.

My current leader is the 6 pm ESPN broadcast. I don't think this game kicks off any later; ESPN already has plans to televise a Pac-Ten game at 9:15 pm. I do think an 11 am kickoff is also very possible; you trade atmosphere and potential coverage issues on the west coast (9 am Pacific, and 6 am in Hawai'i!) but gain the national window almost assuredly GameDay. (Truth be told, if Nebraska is 5-0 going into the Texas game, GameDay will be in Lincoln no matter when the game kicks off.)

I also wouldn't completely rule out a swap between ABC, ESPN, and NASCAR, though I also think it's rather unlikely. Folks who watch NASCAR will watch it whenever and wherever it's on; they're about as dedicated as Husker fans when it comes to obsession with their sport. NASCAR might not be willing to accept being bumped, and ABC may be looking to capitalize on the NASCAR audience in primetime rather than the fractured football fan base up against the baseball playoffs on Fox and NHL/NBA games on the FSN regional channels.

So what are your preferences for a broadcast?