Rutgers A.A.D. for Communications Jason Baum tweeted last Monday that the Rutgers/North Carolina came had been selected for a six-day window, meaning that the game's time and broadcast information will not be announced until tomorrow. scarletknights.com reports the following possible game times:
ESPN or ESPN2 at Noon or 6 p.m.
ESPNU at Noon or 3:30 p.m.
ABC – 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m.
ESPN already has Auburn/South Carolina scheduled for 7:45 on Saturday, with ESPNU scheduling Florida/Kentucky for 7 pm. ESPN2's 9 pm game is already scheduled as West Virginia/LSU.
As an aside, ESPNU really seems to be going after some bigger games this year. I still don't like playing there because of its limited availability, but the channel hardly has the stigma it did in years past. They are however carried on Comcast, Cablevision, and Direct TV now. That is a considerable improvement over the past, when most Rutgers fans were completely unable to watch ESPN U games (which weren't on Gameplan/ESPN 360). Those strong-arming tactics have apparently paid off to some extent.
Taking all of that into account, what's the most likely scenario for when Rutgers and UNC will play next week? NBC is airing Notre Dame/Stanford at 3:30, and CBS gets Alabama/Arkansas at the same time. Georgia/Mississippi St. is scheduled for 7 pm on Fox Sports Net affiliates, with Fresno St./Ole Miss at 7 headed for regional cable and UAB/Tennessee on SEC network affiliates. Miami/Pitt is also out considering that it's the Thursday night game next week. That leaves the following possibilities for the eight available ESPN/ABC slots, being games with times currently listed as "to be determined".
Wake Forest/Florida State
Georgia Tech/NC State
Oregon State/Boise State
Virginia Tech/Boston College
Texas/UCLA (ESPN is already showing this game as being picked up by ABC)
ABC has already picked up Ohio State/Eastern Michigan at 3:30 as part of their regional broadcast, which is not unexpected considering their contract with the Big Ten. Now, if you look at how ABC generally operates with their coverage maps, their "reverse mirror" policy works as such: during primetime, there are usually two games split across the country. At 3:30, there are usually three to choose from. ABC affiliates across the country will choose one, and another goes up on ESPN's national broadcast.
Based on all of this, I'm thinking the following.
- Are there enough games to do their regular mirror? With the giant caveat of not being familiar with this topic at all, it seems like there aren't.
- Next week has a heavy ACC slate, so clearly a lot depends on the outcome of today's game between UNC and Georgia Tech. NC State has more buzz after their hot start, although that game has a small geographic footprint.
- Even with UCLA being awful to start off the year, UCLA/Texas screams prime time considering the marquee names involved, and Texas's lofty status. I would be very surprised if that game isn't on ABC at 8 pm.
- Its chief competitors in that slot are Oregon St/Boise and Oklahoma/Cincy. They're both better games on the field (especially the former, which also is a great fit for the late time slot being on the west coast). It's hard to imagine Oklahoma and Texas playing at the same time, although that has to have happened at some point.
- Would ESPN want to air RU/UNC or BC/VT at the same time, or WF/FSU and GT/NCS? It seems like both of those games have similar television footprints.
My intuition right now is that the game will either be on at 12 pm or 3 pm, and aired on ESPN2 or ESPNU. VT/BC seems like an obvious pick for ESPN at noon, considering VT's loss to James Madison, and I wonder whether ESPN would want to air RU/UNC against that game. On the other hand, almost all of RU's Saturday ESPN games are usually at noon. ESPNU at noon would be the worst possible scenario, but I'm not really comfortable making a prediction given their recent loftier aspirations, and not understanding exactly what ABC is planning next week.
The bottom line is that you should root for UNC. That was already a given based on helping RU's strength of schedule. The Tar Heels winning makes the Scarlet Knights look better, even if they won't be a favorite less week. It will also look very bad if they lose to a team who just lost to Kansas.
Update: I was just watching the end of Maryland/WVU, and they said that Maryland/FIU would be on ESPNU at noon next weeK.