Since 2017, the Michigan-Ohio State game has aired on Fox. In each of those three years, it has drawn at least ten million viewers – 10.51 million in 2017, 13.20 million in 2018, and 12.42 million in 2019. In each of those three years, it has been Fox’s most-watched regular season game of the year, a top three most-watched regular season game on any network, and a pillar on the college football schedule.
By now, you know that the game isn’t happening this Saturday, thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak at Michigan.
"This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making.” pic.twitter.com/IHXOD6lXyj
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) December 8, 2020
I don’t think I need to explain what a blow this is for Fox. The network is losing arguably the highlight of its college football schedule, and barring a schedule shift, the network is looking down the barrel of either not having a noon game on the schedule this weekend or moving (likely) Minnesota-Nebraska to Fox. They’ll also be losing the game that Big Noon Kickoff would be showcasing and leading into, and the game that would be the start of a full day of blockbuster sports on the network. Following Michigan-Ohio State, Fox was going to air Washington-Oregon, with the MLS Cup matchup between Seattle and Columbus in primetime.
Now, the dynamite lead-in is gone. No matter what Fox airs in place of Michigan-Ohio State, it won’t draw anything close to the ten million-plus viewers that we’d expect to see from the Big Ten rivalry game. Furthermore, it does seem like Fox’s college football coverage this season is going to end with a whimper. The Big Ten championship game is scheduled for a week and a half from now, and with Ohio State’s eligibility in question thanks to the several games it has had cancelled, Fox will air the game at noon ET as opposed to in primetime. Fox also has zero bowl games this year, thanks to the cancellations of both the Redbox Bowl and Holiday Bowl.
If you’re Fox, the only thing you can hope for today is that Ohio State plays *someone* on Saturday. Sure, it won’t be a game against Michigan, but it’s far better than no Ohio State game at all.