Football: Wildcats set to host Buckeyes in prime-time matchup

Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

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Northwestern will take on Ohio State at home Oct. 5 before a prime-time audience, ESPN announced this afternoon.

The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and likely feature two top-20 teams in a conference showdown. It will air on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, with the decision being made in the fall.

The game will be the Wildcats’ Big Ten opener and comes after their bye week. It also coincides with NU’s Homecoming festivities.

“Wildcats fans and alumni returning to Evanston for Homecoming are going to experience an electric atmosphere at Ryan Field when we take on Ohio State in our Big Ten opener,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a news release. “The excitement that comes with running out on their home field for a primetime game in front of a packed house is something our young men will remember well after their playing careers are finished.”

The Oct. 5 matchup will be the Cats’ first home game televised at night on the ESPN family of networks since NU lost to Michigan 33-17 in 2005. However, NU is no stranger to the prime-time spotlight, hosting Big Ten games under the lights in 2010 and 2011, as well as welcoming Vanderbilt to Evanston with a prime-time start last season.

“After hosting night games each of the last three years at Ryan Field, it’s clear that the primetime kickoff is something that players, fans and the community have truly embraced,” athletic director Jim Phillips said in the release. “Combine that with the national exposure that comes along with a primetime television slot, and this really is an exciting announcement for Northwestern fans everywhere.”

The Cats last played the Buckeyes under the lights in Evanston in 2004 when NU escaped with a 33-27 overtime win.

— Josh Walfish