College Football’s Week Seven (2023):
Miami-UNC = ACC’s Only Ratings Hit,
As Big Ten, SEC Again Lead The Way

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

The Atlantic Coast Conference continued its run of solid 2023 television ratings during Week Seven of college football season, although for the first time this year the league (1) failed to have at least one team involved in one of the five largest audiences of the weekend and (2) had only one of the 10 most-watched matchups.

The game that produced the ACC’s largest audience of the weekend, #12 North Carolina’s 41-31 victory over #25 Miami in Chapel Hill, attracted an estimated 3.1 million viewers in ABC’s desirable prime-time (7:30 pm) Saturday slot.

The UNC-Miami game attracted the seventh-largest audience of Week Seven. It also ranked fourth among the seven FBS games played in that same Saturday night ABC window so far this season, behind only LSU-Florida State (9.2 million viewers) in Week One, Notre Dame-Duke (5.3 million) in Week Five and Notre Dame-Louisville (5.1 million) in Week Six.

Below are the 10 most-watched games of the extended Oct. 9-14 college football slate, including nine conference matchups (four in the SEC, two in the Big Ten, two in the Pac-12, one in the ACC, none in the Big 12) and a single nonconference contest, #21 Notre Dame’s 48-20 demolition of #10 Southern Cal in South Bend.

As usual, the two leagues with by far the most lucrative television contracts, the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten, continue to produce multiple top-10 audiences on a weekly basis. The highest-rated game of Week Seven, #7 Washington’s 36-33 triumph over #6 Oregon in a battle of unbeaten Pac-12 teams, was between schools that will play in the Big Ten starting in 2024.

Meanwhile, after a week when it played a game on an unrated channel (the Pac-12 Network), the resurgent Colorado program under new coach Deion Sanders played its first game on a rated channel since the Buffaloes became the “sensation sweeping the nation” earlier this season.

During the late Friday contest (10 pm) televised by ESPN, Colorado’s 46-43 loss to Stanford in double overtime, a game the Buffaloes led 29-0 at halftime, an estimated audience of 3.3 million tuned in. That number ranked sixth for the Week Seven weekend, and it marked ESPN’s best Friday game since 2018.

Each of Colorado’s first five games this season attracted a massive audience: 7.3 million for the Buffaloes’ win at TCU, 8.7 million for their victory over Nebraska, 9.3 million for their triumph over Colorado State, 10.03 million for their 42-6 loss at #10 Oregon, and 7.2 million for their 48-41 home defeat at the hands of #8 Southern Cal.

For the most-watched college football games from earlier this season, please visit our summaries from Week OneWeek Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five and Week Six.

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. Oregon-Washington — Sat. (3:30 pm), ABC, 7.3 million
2. Southern Cal-Notre Dame — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 6.4 million
3. Texas A&M-Tennessee — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 4.4 million
4. Indiana-Michigan — Sat. (noon), FOX, 3.6 million
5. Arkansas-Alabama — Sat. (noon), ESPN, 3.4 million
6. Stanford-Colorado — Fri. (10 pm), ESPN, 3.3 million
7. Miami-North Carolina — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 3.1 million
8. Georgia-Vanderbilt — Sat. (noon), CBS, 2.5 million
9. Iowa-Wisconsin — Sat. (4 pm), FOX, 2.3 million
10. Auburn-LSU — Sat. (7 pm), ESPN, 2.2 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

Syracuse-Florida State — Sat. (noon), ABC, 2.1 million
Louisville-Pittsburgh — Sat. (6:30 pm), CW, 569,000
Coastal Carolina-Appalachian State — Tues. (7 pm), ESPN2, 499,000
SMU-East Carolina — Thurs. (7:30 pm), ESPN, 467,000

^-Nielsen does not provide ratings for games broadcast on some conference-specific (ACC Network, Pac-12 Network, SEC Network) channels and others (e.g., CBSSN) that rarely have 1M+ audiences

The SMU-ECU game, an American Athletic Conference matchup, was a disappointment for the Pirates both on the field (a 31-10 loss to the ACC-bound Mustangs) and in terms of the audience attracted (467,000) for a nationally televised game on ESPN, especially given that the program has been trying to position itself in the expansion/realignment conversation for many years.

Winning at a high level, attracting large TV audiences and offering new geography (as ECU would to, say, the Big 12) are among the most important factors in the realignment world.

When the Big 12 recently raided the AAC, it selected teams with plenty of recent gridiron success: Cincinnati (two AAC titles and four top-25 finishes from 2018-2021), Houston (one AAC championship and two top-25 finishes from 2015-2021) and UCF (four AAC titles and four top-25 finishes from 2013-2019).

Unfortunately for the Pirates, they are now 1-5 this season, they haven’t finished a season in the national Top 25 since 1995, and their Thursday night ESPN audience ranked dead last among the six games on that prominent channel in that desirable window so far this season.

Here are the other results from ESPN’s Thursday night window so far in 2023, in order of estimated audience size: Florida-Utah (3.2 million) in Week One, Navy-Memphis (1.1 million) in Week Three, Georgia State-Coastal Carolina (671,000) in Week Four, Temple-Tulsa (567,000) in Week Five, Western Kentucky-Louisiana Tech (567,000) in Week Six and SMU-ECU (467,000) in Week Seven.

NOTE1: According to Nielsen’s ratings system, “average audience” represents the number of viewers two years old or older who are watching a program during its average minute. The “total audience” number, representing those who tuned in for six or more minutes of a broadcast, is almost always much higher.

NOTE2: Since September 2020, Nielsen’s numbers also include out-of-home viewers (e.g., those in bars, restaurants). Same-day DVR viewers also are included.

NOTE3: Because the number of American TV households (approximately 124 million) has become so much larger than the number of American pay-TV households (approximately 76 million), the most-watched games are typically on broadcast channels (i.e., ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) and less frequently on cable channels (e.g., ESPN, ESPN2, FS1).

NOTE4: Nielsen reports separate viewing numbers, which include streaming (still a low percentage of viewers), soon after its TV-specific numbers.