College Football’s Week 10 (2023):
Notre Dame-Clemson = ACC’s Only Top-10 Game,
As SEC Provides CBS Two Ratings Juggernauts

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

The Atlantic Coast Conference, after a two-month run of very solid and occasionally spectacular television numbers, posted its second consecutive week of disappointing ratings results during Week 10 of the 2023 college football season.

For just the third time this season, the ACC failed to deliver any of the five largest audiences of the week, and it was involved in only one of the 10 most-watched games overall. That performance paled in comparison to those of the other Power Five conferences, including the disintegrating Pac-12.

As usual, the two leagues with by far the most lucrative television contracts, the SEC and the Big Ten, continue to produce multiple top-10 audiences on a weekly basis. Indeed, on Saturday, the SEC produced the only two ratings juggernauts of the week, both for its long-time TV partner CBS: #14 LSU at #8 Alabama (estimated audience of 8.8 million) and #12 Missouri at #2 Georgia (7 million).

Meanwhile, despite its 4-5 record and several late-night West Coast start times, Colorado continued its amazingly strong ratings results this season.

The Buffaloes’ 26-19 home loss to #16 Oregon State attracted an estimated audience of 2.8 million, the eighth-largest of Week 10. In chronological order, the eight games coach Deion Sanders’ team has played on rated channels this year have finished second (at TCU), second (Nebraska), first (Colorado State), first (at Oregon), first (USC), sixth (Stanford), third (UCLA) and eighth (Oregon State) among those weeks’ most watched college football games.

For the largest college football audiences from earlier this season, please visit our summaries from Week OneWeek Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, Week Six, Week Seven, Week Eight and Week Nine.

Below are the 10 most-watched games of the extended Oct. 31-Nov. 4 college football slate. Nine were conference matchups: three in the Big Ten, two in the Big 12, two in the SEC, and two in the Pac-12. The only nonconference tilt from the top 10 was Notre Dame’s visit to Clemson, which was part of the Fighting Irish’s gridiron scheduling arrangement with the ACC.

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. LSU-Alabama — Sat. (7:45 pm), CBS, 8.8 million
2. Missouri-Georgia — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 7 million
3. Washington-Southern Cal — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 4.5 million
4. Ohio State-Rutgers — Sat. (noon), CBS, 4 million
5. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State — Sat. (3:30 pm), ABC, 3.8 million
6. Notre Dame-Clemson — Sat. (noon), ABC, 3.2 million
7. Kansas State-Texas — Sat. (noon), FOX, 3 million
8. Oregon State-Colorado — Sat. (10 pm), ESPN, 2.8 million
9. Purdue-Michigan — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 2.6 million
10. Penn State-Maryland — Sat. (3:30 pm), FOX, 2.4 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

Florida State-Pittsburgh — Sat. (3:30 pm), ESPN, 1.8 million
Boston College-Syracuse — Fri. (7:30 pm), ESPN2, 1.1 million
Wake Forest-Duke — Thurs. (7:30 pm), ESPN, 814,000
Georgia Tech-Virginia — Sat. (2 pm), CW, 262,000
Marshall-Appalachian State — Sat. (6 pm), NFLN, 78,000
Tulane-East Carolina — Sat. (3:30 pm), ESPNU, 76,000

^-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

While in most circumstances it’s a disappointment when a conference game in a Power Five league fails to draw even 1 million viewers, the Thursday night Wake Forest-Duke matchup attracted a solid number (814,000) on ESPN, relatively speaking. Thus far this season, only two of ESPN’s prime-time Thursday games have drawn larger audiences.

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, Syracuse-Virginia Tech (782,000) in Week Nine, Georgia State-Coastal Carolina (671,000) in Week Four, James Madison-Marshall (603,000) in Week Eight, Temple-Tulsa (567,000) in Week Five, Western Kentucky-Louisiana Tech (567,000) in Week Six and SMU-ECU (467,000) in Week Seven.

Elsewhere, App State’s 31-9 home victory over Marshall, while overwhelmingly impressive on the field, was a relative disappointment on the TV side (estimated audience of only 78,000). The five previous NFL Network broadcasts of college football games this season included audiences of 101,000 (Army at Louisiana-Monroe), 83,000 (Houston at Rice), 81,000 (James Madison at Troy), 60,000 (App State at Old Dominion) and 60,000 (Marshall at Coastal Carolina).


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.