A change in Fox’s strategy may alter the number of early kickoffs for Nebraska.

Fox announced this week it would place the best game from its weekly college football menu in the 11 a.m. slot, which matches the traditional start times of the Texas-Oklahoma and Michigan-Ohio State games. NU’s most-watched game last season, a 36-31 loss at Ohio State, also started at 11 a.m.

Translation: The better Nebraska is, the more likely Fox is willing to schedule the Huskers for 11 a.m.

ABC will keep its top game at 6:30 p.m. The network’s first three primetime games — Auburn-Oregon, LSU-Texas and Clemson-Syracuse — were announced Wednesday.

Networks typically try to lock in the top games for the first few weeks of the season before going to a flex option later in the year, when teams don’t always know until six or 12 days beforehand what time or on which network they’ll play.

Superpower teams like Alabama are exceptions, but Nebraska hasn’t been in that tier for a while. The Huskers’ highest-profile TV games in recent years have been more defined by which teams they play.

Three of Nebraska’s biggest games next season are all at home: Ohio State on Sept. 29, Wisconsin on Nov. 16 and Iowa on Nov. 29. The Hawkeye game is one of the few on Black Friday and tends to get a morning or afternoon window. Though it seemed like the Wisconsin and Ohio State games could kick off at night, they could easily be early kickoffs thanks to Fox’s new strategy.

NU played one true night game last season — at Wisconsin. The Huskers’ home night game against Akron was canceled by thunderstorms minutes after kickoff.

Home night games tend to be preferred for recruiting. Morning kickoffs are tougher since official visitors may have a high school game the night before and could struggle to make it to the stadium in time. But Fox’s emphasis on the early time slot could also push Nebraska to a night kick on occasion.

It remains to be seen how BTN, which often broadcasts multiple games in that 11 a.m. slot, will adjust to Fox’s move. Fox owns 51% of BTN.

NCAA considers changes

The NCAA is taking a harder look at how student-athletes could benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness. A working group — co-chaired by Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman and Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith — has been created to examine how players could be compensated in a way that, according to Ackerman, is “tethered to education.”

“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” Smith said in a statement. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”

The NCAA has loosened its rules in recent years, allowing student-athletes to receive stipends on top of room and board. It also allows schools to bring walk-on student-athletes to campus before their true freshman years and pay full cost of their classes as part of a bridge program. Dennis Leblanc, senior associate athletic director for academics, said Nebraska is one of the few programs that take advantage of the rule.

Boost for receivers

The arrival of graduate transfer receiver Kanawai Noa immediately improved the career production of the Husker position group. Other than junior JD Spielman, Noa has more career yards than the rest of NU’s pass-catchers combined. That includes running backs, receivers and tight ends.

Noa has 1,267 career yards. Spielman has 1,648. The rest of the team, including still-to-arrive Dedrick Mills, has 856. Mike Williams, Jaron Woodyard and Andre Hunt — the men Noa will most likely battle for playing time — have 132 career receiving yards combined.

The Huskers are at 82 scholarships and will be at 83 if Highland (Kan.) Community College defensive lineman Jahkeem Green becomes academically eligible and signs with NU. That means, unless another scholarship player leaves, the Huskers will have only two scholarships to give to walk-ons.

Recruiting coast to coast

Nebraska’s month of recruiting contacts continues through May 31, and the Huskers have fanned out all over the country.

They lead the nation in the number of scholarship offers they’ve extended to the 2020 class, according to the 247Sports database.

NU has made the most offers in Florida (58), Texas (57), California (32), Georgia (30) and Alabama (24), where the Huskers have a commit from Athens quarterback Logan Smothers. NU has five offers out in Hawaii, where defensive line coach Tony Tuioiti once coached high school. That’s also where coach Scott Frost once recruited quarterback McKenzie Milton to Central Florida.

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Reporter - Nebraska athletics

Sam covers Nebraska football, recruiting, women's basketball and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @swmckewonOWH. Email: SMcKewon@owh.com

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