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Fox Sports is taking its college football coverage back in time

The network moved its marquee game from prime time to 11 a.m. and rebuilt its pregame show around Urban Meyer.

Reggie Bush (from left), Matt Leinart and Urban Meyer will join host Rob Stone and Brady Quinn on “Big Noon Kickoff” at 10 a.m. Saturdays on Fox.
Fox Sports

Whereas NFL fans wait all day for Sunday night on NBC, Fox doesn’t want college football fans waiting for prime time anymore.

The network is moving its weekly marquee game to 11 a.m. Saturdays, hoping to fill the void in a time slot that has seen big matchups leave for starry skies. Fox plans to capitalize on its deal with the Big Ten, putting many of the conference’s games in that spot.

With the move comes a new pregame show, the hourlong “Big Noon Kickoff.” The title might not work in every time zone, but Fox is confident its cast will.

Urban Meyer takes center stage with host Rob Stone, Brady Quinn, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Meyer begins his second tour in broadcasting after not lasting the 2011 season at ESPN before becoming Ohio State’s coach.

All told, it’s another bold strategy for a network that rarely has bowed to convention.

“What we looked at over the course of the last few years with our college football was, people didn’t think college football and prime time automatically went together,” Fox Sports executive producer Brad Zager said. “There’s always been an appetite for football when you start your day. You shouldn’t have to wait till prime time to see the best games of the day.

“If you look at the success of Sunday football at 1 o’clock and 4 o’clock [Eastern], I think it goes to show you that football isn’t just a made-for-prime-time sport. And we looked at that opportunity to take some ownership of that on Saturday. And then what could go along with it — a solid pregame show that would lead people into that game and set up the entire day of college football — just made sense.”

The show makes its regular-season debut at 10 a.m. Saturday on Fox-32, before the Florida Atlantic-Ohio State game. In fact, Fox’s first four “Big Noon Saturday” games involve Big Ten teams. More are sure to come.

“The addition of the Big Ten [in 2017] is what really changed the landscape of our college football coverage,” Zager said. “Adding the Big Ten to the Big 12 and the Pac-12 gave us another level of high-level games that we just didn’t have before. It allowed us over these last couple of years to figure out how we can best take advantage of this relationship with the Big Ten. This noon strategy was part of that.”

With Meyer on board, the Buckeyes are a natural fit for the opener. And the “Big Noon Kickoff” will feature his interview with his replacement, Ryan Day. Though speculation about a return to coaching continues to follow Meyer, indications are he’s all in with Fox. Meyer also will serve as a studio analyst for the Big Ten Network, of which Fox is a part-owner.

“We want Urban to be here as long as he wants to be here, and everything we’ve seen so far makes us believe that this isn’t Urban sitting out of the coaching ranks for a year,” Zager said. “When you’re in this business, with players and coaches, you take that risk. And we’re totally OK with that risk because we know the value he brings while he’s here.”

Many media observers believe Fox is taking aim at ESPN’s renowned “College GameDay,” but Zager wouldn’t declare it a competition. The shows will go head-to-head for only an hour. (“GameDay” airs for three hours, starting at 8 a.m.) Plus, Zager said Fox is focused on making “Big Noon Kickoff” comparable to its other successful studio shows, “Fox NFL Sunday” and its MLB postseason show.

“For us, it’s much more about building a great college football studio show,” Zager said. “If others want to compare us to anything else out there, that’s for them. But we’ve got our head down, and I know this group is unbelievably focused.”

ESPN 1000 pregame show returns

“Chicago’s College Tailgate” returns to ESPN 1000 at noon Saturday, hosted by Adam Abdalla, Chris Bleck and Jonathan Hood. It then will air before most Notre Dame games, starting with the season opener Monday against Louisville. Showtime is 3 p.m. ESPN 1000 is the radio home for the Irish.

In other ESPN 1000 news, the station will be under new management Sept. 29 after ESPN Radio leased it to Good Karma Brands. The station will retain its name and remain part of ESPN Radio. Good Karma Brands will make all programming decisions, but it was unclear whether it would make changes.