College Football’s Week Two (2023):
Hurricanes, Wolfpack Among TV Ratings Hits

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

While football television ratings remain the root cause of the ongoing rise, power and wealth of the Big Ten and the SEC, the relative struggles of the ACC and the Big 12, and the financially challenging circumstances of every other college sports conference, the so-called “Power Five” leagues all contributed to solid television ratings during Week Two of college football’s regular season.

Here are the 10 most-watched games of Sept. 9, led by nine nonconference matchups (two involving current ACC teams and one involving future ACC member California) and just a single conference game: Stanford (also headed to the ACC next year) at Southern Cal (headed to the Big Ten next year), in their final gridiron contest as fellow members of the crumbling Pac-12.

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. Texas-Alabama — Sat. (7 pm), ESPN/ESPN2, 8.8 million
2. Nebraska-Colorado — Sat. (noon), FOX, 8.7 million
3. Texas A&M-Miami — Sat. (5:19 pm), ABC, 4 million
4. Iowa-Iowa State — Sat. (3:30 pm), FOX, 3.4 million
5. UNLV-Michigan — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 3 million
6. Notre Dame-NC State — Sat. (noon), ABC, 2.9 million
7. Oregon-Texas Tech — Sat. (7 pm), FOX, 2.6 million
8. Wisconsin-Washington State — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 2.3 million
9. Auburn-California — Sat. (10:30 pm), ESPN, 2.2 million
10. Stanford-Southern Cal — Sat. (10:30 pm), FOX, 1.8 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

Charlotte-Maryland — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 665,000
Cincinnati-Pittsburgh — Sat. (6:30 pm), CW, 617,000
Purdue-Virginia Tech — Sat. (noon), ESPN2, 294,000
James Madison-Virginia — Sat. (noon), ESPNU, 119,000
Marshall-East Carolina — Sat. (4 pm), ESPNU, 90,000

^-Nielsen does not provide ratings for games broadcast on some conference-specific (ACCN, SECN) channels and others that rarely have 1M+ audiences

With ACC football television heavyweights Florida State (hosting Southern Miss) and Clemson (hosting Charleston Southern) both appearing as part of a quadrupleheader on the ACC Network, which doesn’t publicly report viewership numbers and is not rated by Nielsen, the ACC’s #3 football TV brand of the last decade, Miami, helped draw the third-largest audience of the weekend.

Along with NC State’s game against ratings juggernaut Notre Dame, the Hurricanes continued the ACC’s impressive theme from Week One, which was a true ratings bonanza for the conference, with LSU-Florida State, Clemson-Duke and South Carolina-UNC leading the way.

Elsewhere, Charlotte enjoyed a rare national broadcast TV spotlight, as part of the Big Ten’s new relationship with NBC. The average audience for the 49ers’ loss to Maryland in College Park fell well below the 1 million mark, a baseline expectation for a game in that time slot on one of the four major networks, although the competition was very tough, given the weekend-leading Texas-Alabama thriller on ESPN and ESPN2 at a similar time.

The disappointing — and, in the latter two cases, truly horrific — viewership numbers for Purdue-Virginia Tech, James Madison-Virginia and Marshall-East Carolina undoubtedly were impacted by those games’ significant lightning delays, although many other college football matchups (including A&M-Miami and Notre Dame-NC State) managed strong numbers despite such complications.

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.