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Iowa will stripe Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 22 against longtime rival Wisconsin.

Projecting Iowa, Big Ten prime-time schedule release

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ANSWER: In the past, the offseason calendar was more predictable when it came to television times. Before the FOX family of networks entered the Big Ten fray in 2017, prime-time kickoffs and other game times usually were released the last week of April or first week in May. ESPN regularly would announce six or seven prime-time kickoffs, then BTN would follow with six or seven more about a week later. In late May or early June, the schools would provide kickoff times for the first three weeks plus homecoming games.

Last year, the Big Ten announced all networks (except for BTN) and times on May 31 for pre-selected prime-time games, homecoming kickoffs and noteworthy dates collectively. Among the games released at that time included all non-Saturday games such as Iowa at Nebraska, plus high-profile games such as Ohio State at Michigan and Penn State at Ohio State. BTN then announced its first three weeks of games on June 6.

It’s different these days because of flex scheduling, too. With 12 days’ notice, networks can move Big Ten games into prime time. That was how Iowa’s games against Penn State and Minnesota shifted into night events last fall.

I could see the prime-time announcements coming a bit earlier this year, say in mid-May. As for Iowa, I’d be surprised if the homecoming game on Oct. 20 against Maryland didn’t kick off at 11 a.m. CT. Also, the Black Friday game against Nebraska probably will air in mid-afternoon like last year, which was at 3 p.m. CT on FS1. Big Ten officials have classified Black Friday as a separate date so it can get a kickoff time in advance. Logistics became a disaster for fans in 2016 when the time was set on a six-day window. Remember, it’s the day after Thanksgiving.

Among prime-time possibilities, Iowa’s opener against Northern Illinois could get a decent network slot. Like Iowa, the Huskies finished 8-5 last season and feature one of the nation’s best pass rushers in Sutton Smith. The Hawkeyes’ annual rivalry game with Iowa State in Week 2 could end up in prime time or mid-afternoon. It’s a more competitive matchup that day than Penn State at Pittsburgh (Iowa State was 8-5 last season, Pitt was 5-7).

The only other Hawkeyes home game that has prime-time potential is Wisconsin at Iowa on Sept. 22. It’s the most high-profile game in the league that day and ranks among the nation’s best matchups. The winner of that annual matchup has claimed every Big Ten West Division title. Iowa will stripe the stadium, so the environment will be top-notch. It’s a game that could receive an early time designation or it could be subjected to the 12-day selection window. In that case, we won’t know that kickoff time until probably Sept. 9 or 10.

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