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Does Playing Two Huge Games on a Thursday Night Help or Hurt College Football?

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks runs for a touchdown during the first quarter of the game against the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterNovember 6, 2013

Thursday night features two Top 10 matchups and, for the college football world, that's a major positive. After Thursdays where games have been less than intriguing, in terms of the BCS National Championship, this week the nation gets an early dose of meaningful ballgames.

A double dose.

The college football world is blessed with tremendous media partners when it comes to putting the games on television and distributing the contests to consumers. Unfortunately for the consumer, those outlets have no interest in sharing prime airtime, or coordinating schedules to allow viewers to consume all of the biggest games.

Thus, on any given weekend, the average fan is left with a dilemma that can only be solved by multiple televisions, an iPad, a laptop and some creative channel changing. Without this Thursday night doubleheader, this would again be the case in Week 11.

No. 6 Baylor hosting No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 5 Stanford hosting No. 3 Oregon and No. 1 Alabama hosting No. 13 LSU would all be big Saturday contests on three different networks. Fox with the Big 12 spotlight, ESPN showcasing the Pac-12 and CBS working with the SEC to put on an evening show. A battle between networks, and more importantly, a battle where CBS, as a very basic package channel, has a leg up on the competition.

However, by opting not to compete with CBS, and the SEC, both Fox and ESPN will share the big stage in the collegiate world Thursday. The NFL game, Washington at Minnesota, will be an issue, but for the college faithful getting to start the night with Lache Seastrunk and finish with Marcus Mariota is a treat.

And for the network, it's a far better treat than forcing these teams to play earlier in the day, or in the case of the Pac-12, later at night, on Saturday.

For the new network, Fox Sports 1, getting the early audience will be a welcomed change starting at 7:30 Eastern on Thursday night. Oklahoma at Baylor will be the biggest show in town and all eyes will find the network to take in a game that, for many, is Baylor's first chance to prove they belong in the title hunt. 

At 9 Eastern, folks can either stay with the game in progress, or make the jump to ESPN for the Pac-12 showdown. With a compelling game in progress, Fox Sports 1 can likely hold some of the audience that tuned in early. For the fledgling network, the early eyeballs are critical to generating momentum.

Then, as Thursday night goes on and the Big 12 contest is decided, all eyes will shift to ESPN for the conclusion of the Pac-12 contest. Oregon and Stanford played an epic contest a season ago, and if that form holds true in 2013, ESPN will have plenty of viewers glued to the screen as the game ends.

This is good for the networks, it's good for the programs, it's good for the viewers and it's great for the college football world. Regardless of the outcome, the table will be set for Friday and beyond from a discussion standpoint in the sport. With wins, both Oregon and Baylor remain the hunt. Losses would shift the picture and open up talk of new conference champions and possible BCS Bowl participants.

A meaty precursor to the weekend is a major plus for college football. Instead of another Thursday night where the game has no impact on the national stage, this week has two games with major ramifications. College football has to take these when it can get them. Big-time Thursdays like these do not come around often. 

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