Scenes from a clash of college football titans


I couldn’t sleep. The alarm shook the silence at 3:55 am, but it didn’t matter. I was already up. The day? Friday. The occasion? A top-five matchup between two of the most successful college football programs on planet Earth. I grabbed my jacket and headed for the airport. The mise en scène: Yawning Ohio State fans leaning forward with a sort of sleepy anticipation while Frank Sinatra wafted gently from a cafe. I was clearly the only Notre Dame alum in sight. A young girl wearing a dark gray Ohio State shirt several sizes too big and a pair of dove gray Vans perched beside her father and ate yogurt, wide-eyed and glued to a television screen showing a CNBC anchor talking about the president’s speech on the soul of the nation. She caught my attention. It looked like she believed.

Belief. A silly word at times when you consider the evidence. 0 games played. A new configuration of players and coaches with months of experience together — let me clarify, months conducting football experiments in a vacuum simulating what might come up if their hypotheses end up being correct. A science experiment whose outcome can make a man cry like he did when he got cut from the middle school basketball team or give a young couple a surprise a few weeks after a win. Last year this team only lost two games and rewrote the record book in their Rose Bowl victory over Utah. Quarterback C.J. Stroud finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. On paper all this translates to national championship contenders and a preseason ranking of number two in the country. I set out to investigate if that young girl of no more than 13 years was right. Was she right to believe in this team this year?

The tempest came Saturday. What was a cordial peacetime ceasefire between Ohio State and Notre Dame fans combusted. The chasm could be seen in parking lots where some brave tailgates hosted a single green shirt in a sea of lava. I found myself in a perilous position: a 17.5-point underdog on foreign soil. I journeyed far off campus to see familiar faces among the white tents of Our Lady. The refrain among the Notre Dame faithful rang out like a glorious Sunday hymnal or heavenly chorus: “I’m here for the upset.” Music to my ears. Belief, but a different type than the little girl of 13’s. This was a tired belief. The tested belief of an older generation who had their hearts broken by their favorite child too many times and argue late into the night in muffled tones whether or not they should offer one last chance one last time. Promises of change have come to nothing. The family, still wounded after 34 years of separation from the national championship trophy, finds it harder and harder to believe. Saturday the Irish were hopeful, much like the prodigal son’s father. Light rain and newborn skies painted the scene as outnumbered Notre Dame fans pushed their way into the gates of Ohio Stadium, hoping to see a glimpse of the weary trophy on the horizon line.

Then the gates opened. The field, where I stood in awe, looked every bit the belly of a raging volcano. Ohio Stadium awoke from its slumber. Eight weeks of life before dormancy — a short and explosive consciousness. I could tell the stadium wished to wake again. That’s all it ever wished for. 27 NFL teams were represented among the 106,594 in attendance. To think, less than fifty people in that mass of humanity have the ability to employ one of these NFL hopefuls in their desired profession. A funny way to interview for a job. But this isn’t just about draft position and generational wealth. This is about glory. To win glory, you must be willing to do what others would not. Facing a giant deep in the belly of a volcano qualifies. The game felt volatile, uneven ebbs and flows set to a score by a circle of Ohio State fans once anguished now rapturous. Brutus leapt over the South end zone pylon and put his arm around me. It was difficult not to be swept away in it all. I could see why that young girl in gray believed.

It dawned on me in that dreamlike state that perhaps this feeling — this je ne sais quoi — was occurring everywhere and would occur everywhere for months. There would be eruptions in every Big Ten college town this fall. Perhaps agony and rapture do not belong to Columbus alone. They might belong to all of us, like water and air and sunshine. What magic. I was terrified.

In black night, the volcano cooled and tensions simmered. Even the cicadas in Buckeye Grove failed to sing for Notre Dame as the defeated giant lumbered out of the South stadium exit. There was no pageantry in the end, only mundane sounds of engines rumbling and luggage landing underneath several large white buses. In the wake of the battle, peace resumed its reign but clearly boundaries have been redrawn. Notre Dame will no longer be ranked number 5. Compliments, goodbyes, and well wishes filled the muggy evening air as fans went to forage for food. Men in cars stuck in traffic haggled with students carrying pizza boxes and McDonald’s was completely full — even Denny’s had a 25 minute wait for a table at 12:30am. I went back to my hotel room to mourn and think. I survived a trip into the volcano and came back not unchanged. My belief tested but not destroyed. Then my mind drifted to the other top 25 teams who woke up hopeful and went to sleep discouraged. This feeling wasn’t unique to me. There are four spots in the College Football Playoff, aren’t there? Maybe, just maybe…2:00am is not the time to reason. No, 2:00am is for dreaming so off I went in search of something more in sleep. I wondered what the young girl in gray saw that I didn’t and hoped to one day believe like her again.

Michigan, Penn State, Purdue headline NBC Sports, Peacock’s early Big Ten schedule


Big Ten Football is coming to NBC Sports and Peacock for the first time ever this upcoming season. This year’s coverage will feature Big Ten’s first weekly broadcast primetime games and nine Peacock-exclusive matchups. The NBC Sports Big Ten Football package will feature Big Ten Saturday Night on NBC and Peacock, marking the first time ever that the Big Ten will have a dedicated weekly primetime game on a national network. There will also be nine games available exclusively on Peacock.

Big Ten opening week schedule

NBC Sports will debut its Big Ten Football package with two of college football’s top programs — Penn State and Michigan — on Sept. 2.

  • Exclusively on Peacock, at Noon ET, the reigning Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines will host East Carolina at “The Big House.”
  • On NBC and Peacock, at 7:30 p.m. ET, the reigning Rose Bowl champion Penn State Nittany Lions will host West Virginia at Beaver Stadium in the first meeting between the two teams since 1992.

Additional Big Ten Football games announced today

Saturday, Sept. 16th – Washington vs. Michigan State (5 p.m. on Peacock)

The Washington Huskies, who had the nation’s top passing offense in 2022 led by Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Penix Jr. visit the Michigan State Spartans, who finished 11-2 in 2021 and ranked among the country’s top 10 teams.

Saturday, Sept. 16th – Purdue vs. Syracuse (7:30 p.m., NBC and Peacock)

The Purdue Boilermakers, winners of the Big Ten West division last season, host the Syracuse Orange. These teams will face in a rematch of last season’s thriller, where the two combined for 42 points in the fourth quarter alone before the Orange squeaked out a three-point victory.

Saturday, Nov. 11th – Ohio State vs. Michigan State (7:30 p.m., NBC and Peacock)

The Ohio State Buckeyes, a College Football Playoff national semifinalist last season, host Michigan State.

Friday, Nov. 24th – Penn State vs. Michigan State (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock)

Penn State visit Michigan State in a Black Friday primetime matchup at Ford Field in Detroit.

Notre Dame games on NBC

NBC Sports’ primetime schedule also includes two of college football’s most-anticipated matchups. Ohio State will play at Notre Dame Sept. 23 and USC, the top team in the Pac 12 last season, will play at Notre Dame on Oct. 14. Both games will be broadcast on NBC and Peacock.

RELATED: Notre Dame announces 2023 NBC kickoff times, led by Ohio State and USC in prime time

NBC Sports’ Big Ten Football and primetime games announced to date:

Sat. Sept. 2 Noon East Carolina at Michigan Peacock
Sat., Sept. 2 7:30 p.m. West Virginia at Penn State NBC, Peacock
Sat., Sept. 9 Noon Delaware at Penn State Peacock
Sat., Sept. 9 7:30 p.m. Charlotte at Maryland NBC, Peacock
Sat., Sept. 16 5:00 p.m. Washington at Michigan State Peacock
Sat., Sept. 16 7:30 p.m. Syracuse at Purdue NBC, Peacock
Sat., Sept. 23 7:30 p.m. Ohio State at Notre Dame NBC, Peacock
Sat., Oct. 14 7:30 p.m. USC at Notre Dame NBC, Peacock
Sat., Nov. 11 7:30 p.m. Michigan State at Ohio State NBC, Peacock
Fri., Nov. 24 7:30 p.m. Penn State at Michigan State (Ford Field) NBC, Peacock

The remaining NBC Sports’ Big Ten Football games will be announced during the season.

Wisconsin college football history: Big Ten and national titles, stadium, 2023 season outlook and more


Winners of the inaugural Big Ten title in 1896, the Wisconsin Badgers enter a new era in 2023 with Luke Fickell taking over as head coach. Fickell takes over a team which finished last season with a losing conference record for the first time since 2008 and enters this year with a new quarterback under center.

Beginning this fall, NBC and Peacock will be the exclusive home of Big Ten Saturday Night, a primetime football game each weekend. Peacock will also serve as the exclusive home for eight additional Big Ten football games each season. Keep reading for a primer on all things Wisconsin and all things Big Ten ahead of the 2023 season.

How long has Wisconsin been in the Big Ten?

Wisconsin is one of the original members of the Big Ten, playing in the conference’s inaugural season in 1896. The Badgers won each of the first two conference titles, finishing first in the Big Ten in both 1896 and 1897.

Has Wisconsin ever won the Big Ten championship?

Wisconsin has won 14 Big Ten championships, including the inaugural title in the 1896 season. Their most recent Big Ten championship came in the 2012 season, which capped off three-straight conference titles for the Badgers from 2010 to 2012.

RELATED: Wisconsin RB Allen discusses playing for Fickell

Has Wisconsin ever won the national championship?

No, Wisconsin has never won a national championship in football. In the 1962 season, Wisconsin finished second in both the AP and Coaches polls behind Southern Cal, who defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl that season.

What is the name of Wisconsin’s stadium?

With a capacity of more than 80,000, Camp Randall Stadium serves as the home of the Wisconsin Badgers football team. The land was originally used for training Wisconsin troops during the Civil War and is named after Wisconsin’s first wartime governor, Alexander W. Randall. Camp Randall is home to one of college football’s greatest traditions, with the crowd erupting with the playing of the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain.

RELATED: Wisconsin spends spring practice adapting to new offense

Who is Wisconsin’s head coach?

After leading Cincinnati for the past six seasons, Luke Fickell is entering his first year as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. Fickell replaces Paul Chryst, who was fired last October and replaced by Jim Leonhard, who finished the year as interim head coach. Fickell went 57-18 over his six seasons in Cincinnati, including a trip to the 2021 College Football Playoff. He is no stranger to the Big Ten, playing at Ohio State in the 1990’s and spending 16 of his first 18 seasons in coaching on the Buckeyes’ staff, including one year as head coach (2011).

What is Wisconsin’s mascot?

Bucky Badger (full name Buckingham U. Badger) is the mascot for the Wisconsin Badgers. While the badger has been the university’s mascot since 1889, the first costumed Bucky did not make an appearance until 1949 and is known for wearing his signature red and white striped shirt.

RELATED: NCAA rules panel approves keeping clock running on 1st downs

What is Wisconsin’s 2023 season outlook?

The Luke Fickell era is beginning in Madison, with Fickell taking over a team that has won a bowl game in eight of the past nine seasons. Coming with Fickell is new offensive coordinator Phil Longo, who spent the past four years in the same position at North Carolina. Longo is known for having a pass-heavy offense with the Tar Heels and will look to bring that to a Wisconsin program known for a ground-and-pound, run-heavy attack. Fickell and Longo brought in three new quarterbacks from the transfer portal to replace former starter Graham Mertz, who transferred to Florida. Redshirt senior Tanner Mordecai, who played at both Oklahoma and SMU, looks set to take over as the starting QB in Madison this year.

How to Watch Big Ten Football on NBC and Peacock

In August 2022, NBCUniversal and the Big Ten Conference today announced a landmark 7-year agreement for NBC and Peacock to become the exclusive home of Big Ten Saturday Night football, beginning in fall of 2023. Peacock will also serve as the exclusive home for eight additional Big Ten Football games each season.

NBC Sports/Peacock’s new agreement with college sports’ top conference will also feature dozens of men’s and women’s basketball games (including multiple games each year in the Men’s and Women’s Big Ten Tournaments), Olympic sports, golf and more, providing hundreds of hours of Big Ten content across Peacock.

What devices can I watch Peacock on?

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Amazon FireTV and Fire tablets; Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices including Android™, Android TV™ devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices;  Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; Samsung Smart TVs; VIZIO SmartCast™ TVs; LG Smart TVs; Comcast’s entertainment platforms including Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex, and XClass TV; and Cox’s Contour and Contour Stream Player devices. To learn more about Peacock and how to sign up, visit