Predicting Penn State’s 2018 Kickoff Times
We’re still months away from college football season, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to plan your trip to Happy Valley for a football weekend or to one of the five road sites the Nittany Lions will visit in 2018.
The powers that be in college football like to make that planning difficult, not announcing most kickoff times until just two weeks before the game. Nothing is certain, but kickoff times usually follow the same trends — big games get the primetime treatment, while less-hyped matchups get played in the daytime.
As the Nittany Lions have ascended back into college football’s elite, they’ve taken the field at night more often in the past few years and avoided the dreaded early kickoff with just four noon kicks in the past two seasons combined after five noon kicks in 2015.
Here’s when we expect each game during the 2018 slate to kick off:
September 1, vs. Appalachian State: 3:30 p.m.
Penn State will likely be ranked and Appalachian State is in the upper tier of non-Power Five schools. With a number of equally unappealing games to open the season, it probably won’t end up in the noon kickoff slot, but it’s certainly not a primetime game unless it falls to BTN.
September 8, at Pitt: Primetime
It’s confirmed. See you at sundown, Akron.
September 15, vs. Kent State: Noon
The meaningless end to non-conference play usually screams noon kickoff (unless BTN picks it up for primetime).
September 21, at Illinois: Friday in Primetime
Penn State got stuck opening its Big Ten schedule with one of the conference’s Friday games. These games usually kick off at 8 p.m. on FS1.
September 29, vs. Ohio State: Primetime
Fox’s contract with the Big Ten gives it first choice at games. Last year it selected the Nittany Lions meeting with the Buckeyes and aired it at 3:30 p.m. because of the World Series taking the night timeslot.
This time around, it’s still before MLB Playoffs. Beaver Stadium will be in White Out conditions and, at the moment, it’s arguably the best game of the week. All signs point to a primetime kickoff.
October 13, vs. Michigan State: Primetime
It seems like Penn State is playing night games more often in 2018, but good teams end up in primetime frequently because people want to see them. It doesn’t hurt when you play a couple potential top 10 teams.
Because of how the SEC TV schedule works, LSU vs. Georgia likely ends up on CBS at 3:30 p.m., which means the biggest competition for the ABC primetime game is between this Nittany Lions clash and Michigan vs. Wisconsin.
If both the Spartans and Nittany Lions are undefeated, this will likely be a primetime clash.
October 20, at Indiana: Noon
Indiana has a tough schedule and likely won’t be pushing the top 25. The majority of Penn State’s journeys to the midwest have been early kickoffs in recent years. This game shouldn’t be any different.
October 27, vs. Iowa: 3:30 p.m.
The Hawkeyes may only have a loss or two heading into Beaver Stadium decently late in the season. It doesn’t have the billing for a primetime matchup in a week when Florida State takes on Clemson, but it could be ABC’s mid-day game if both are top 25 teams.
November 3, at Michigan: 3:30 p.m.
It all depends on how the season shakes out, but Penn State, Michigan, or possibly both teams may be too far outside the Big Ten Championship picture for this one to matter. Still, the two popular programs likely won’t get stuck in a noon kickoff.
November 10, vs. Wisconsin: Primetime
Basing this one on what we know now, these are two teams with Big Ten title hopes who might be battling for a College Football Playoff spot — of course this is the game of the week (emphasized: as of right now).
By the time the Badgers and Nittany Lions face each other, the two teams will have gone through the buzzsaw that features games at Kinnick Stadium and the Big House for Wisconsin, and the death row slate of Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Michigan for Penn State. This might be a meaningless matchup by then that will certainly be a noon kickoff.
If these teams survive their grueling schedules, then it’s bound for primetime.
November 17, vs. Rutgers: Primetime
Three of the last four Rutgers-Penn State games have been in primetime. Rutgers treats this as its main rivalry. It’ll probably be BTN’s primetime game yet again.
November 24, vs. Maryland: 3:30 p.m.
Penn State’s ended its season with a mid-day game the past two years. If this is to clinch a spot in the Big Ten title game, it probably won’t go up against the other meaningful Big Ten East game, Michigan vs. Ohio State, which traditionally kicks at noon.