College Football’s Week Four (2023):
FSU-Clemson Only ACC TV Ratings Hit

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 Southeastern Conference, the relative struggles of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12, and the financially challenging circumstances of every other college sports conference, four games — including one matching ACC opponents — dominated the viewership numbers during Week Four of college football’s regular season.

Below are the 10 most-watched games of the Sept. 23 weekend, including nine conference matchups (three in the SEC, two in the Big 12, two in the Pac-12, one in the ACC, one in the Big Ten) and a single, scintillating nonconference contest, #6 Ohio State’s 17-14 victory at #9 Notre Dame, a game the Buckeyes won on the final play.

For the fourth time in four weeks, the resurgent Colorado program under new coach Deion Sanders helped attract one of the largest audiences in college football. During their 3-1 start, each of the Buffaloes’ games has attracted a massive audience: 7.3 million for their win at TCU, 8.7 million for their victory over Nebraska, 9.3 million for their triumph over Colorado State, and 10.03 million for their 42-6 loss at #10 Oregon.

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

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. Colorado-Oregon — Sat. (3:30 pm), ABC, 10.03 million
2. Ohio State-Notre Dame — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 9.98 million
3. Florida State-Clemson — Sat. (noon), ABC, 6.7 million
4. Mississippi-Alabama — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 4.6 million
5. Iowa-Penn State — Sat. (7:30 pm), CBS, 2.8 million
6. Southern Cal-Arizona State — Sat. (10:30 pm), FOX, 2.6 million
7. Texas-Baylor — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 2.6 million
8. Arkansas-LSU — Sat. (7 pm), ESPN, 2.4 million
9. Auburn-Texas A&M — Sat. (noon), ESPN, 2.2 million
10. Oklahoma-Cincinnati — Sat. (noon), FOX, 2.2 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

NC State-Virginia — Fri. (7:30 pm), ESPN, 1.6 million
Miami-Temple — Sat. (3:30 pm), ESPN2, 353,000
Georgia Tech-Wake Forest — Sat. (6:30 pm), CW, 332,000
Virginia Tech-Marshall — Sat. (noon), ESPN2, 319,000

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

Predictably, the head-to-head matchup between the ACC’s two football television heavyweights, Clemson and Florida State, enabled the league to have at least one of the nation’s five most-watched games for the fourth week in a row.

Earlier this season, Florida State’s win over LSU (Week One), Duke’s victory over Clemson (Week One), Miami’s triumph over Texas A&M (Week Two), and the Seminoles’ win at Boston College (Week Three) also finished in the top five nationally.

Elsewhere, NC State’s trip to Virginia gave those teams a prominent Friday night national television window on ESPN, and the Wolfpack’s 24-21 victory on the final play delivered an estimated audience of 1.6 million.

The Pack’s last-second victory in Charlottesville fared very well compared to other recent nationally televised Friday night games.

On the same night, for example, the Wisconsin-Purdue game televised on FS1 drew 1.2 million viewers. (That game started at 7 pm Friday, so in a similar time window.) On Friday night during Week Three, the Army-UTSA game attracted only 916,000 viewers on ESPN, and the Virginia-Maryland game drew only 776,000 viewers on FS1.

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.