College Football’s Week Five (2023):
Notre Dame-Duke Provides Ratings Hit;
Tigers, Orange, Cardinals, Wolfpack Also Help

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

The Atlantic Coast Conference continued its solid run of strong television ratings during Week Five of college football season, with Notre Dame’s trip to Duke giving the ACC one of the college gridiron’s five most-watched games of the weekend for the fifth week in a row.

The audience for Clemson’s visit to Syracuse also cracked the top 10 nationally, and Louisville’s trip to NC State in the desirable Friday night ESPN national TV window lured the 11th-best viewership of the entire college football weekend.

Below are the 10 most-watched games of the Sept. 29-30 weekend, including nine conference matchups (four in the SEC, two in the Big Ten, one in the ACC, one in the Big 12, one in the Pac-12) and that single, scintillating nonconference contest, #11 Notre Dame’s 21-14 victory at #17 Duke, a game the Fighting Irish won in the final minute.

Meanwhile, for the fifth time in five weeks, the resurgent Colorado program under new coach Deion Sanders helped attract one of the largest audiences in college football. During their 3-2 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, 10.03 million for their 42-6 loss at #10 Oregon, and most recently 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 and Week Four.

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. Southern Cal-Colorado — Sat. (noon), FOX, 7.2 million
2. Georgia-Auburn — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 6.4 million
3. Notre Dame-Duke — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 5.3 million
4. Michigan-Nebraska — Sat. (3:30 pm), FOX, 4.5 million
5. LSU-Mississippi — Sat. (6 pm), ESPN, 3.7 million
6. Alabama-Mississippi State — Sat. (9 pm), ESPN, 3.4 million
7. Kansas-Texas — Sat. (3:30 pm), ABC, 3.3 million
8. Florida-Kentucky — Sat. (noon), ESPN, 2.3 million
9. Michigan State-Iowa — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 2.2 million
10. Clemson-Syracuse — Sat. (noon), ABC, 2 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

Louisville-NC State — Fri. (7 pm), ESPN, 1.9 million
Virginia-Boston College — Sat. (2 pm), CW, 367,000
Charlotte-SMU — Sat. (7:30 pm), ESPNU, 18,000

^-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 highly regarded ratings juggernaut Notre Dame and nationally ranked Duke (which shocked the world by beating Clemson on national TV on Labor Day Night) enabled the ACC to be a part of at least one of the nation’s five most-watched games for the fifth 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), the Seminoles’ win at Boston College (Week Three) and FSU’s victory at Clemson (Week Four) also finished in the top five nationally.

Elsewhere, 4-0 Louisville’s trip to 3-1 NC State gave those teams a prominent Friday night national television window on ESPN, and the Cardinals’ 13-10 victory on a fourth-quarter field goal delivered an estimated audience of 1.9 million.

Despite the low-scoring nature of the contest, the Louisville-NCSU game fared very well compared to other recent nationally televised Friday night games, even the Wolfpack’s 24-21 victory over Virginia in Charlottesville on the game’s final play in the previous week’s Friday night ESPN window (1.6 million).

On the same night in previous weeks, for example, the Wisconsin-Purdue game televised on FS1 drew 1.2 million viewers. 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.