College Football’s Week 12 (2023):
Louisville-Miami = ACC’s Only Top-10 Tilt,
As SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 Games Lead The Way

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 fourth consecutive week of disappointing ratings results during Week 12 of the 2023 college football season.

For the fifth time this season, the ACC 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 two leagues combined (see below) for the top two college football audiences of the week.

Below are the 10 most-watched games of the extended Nov. 14-18 college football slate. All 10 were conference matchups: three in the Big Ten, two in the Big 12, two in the Pac-12, two in the SEC, and one in the ACC.

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, Week Nine, Week 10 and Week 11.

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. Georgia-Tennessee — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 5.7 million
2. Michigan-Maryland — Sat. (noon), FOX, 5.4 million
3. Washington-Oregon State — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 4.7 million
4. Louisville-Miami — Sat. (noon), ABC, 2.9 million
5. Southern Cal-UCLA — Sat. (3:30 pm), ABC, 2.7 million
6. Texas-Iowa State — Sat. (8 pm), FOX, 2.5 million
7. Nebraska-Wisconsin — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 2.5 million
8. Florida-Missouri — Sat. (7:30 pm), ESPN, 2.3 million
9. Oklahoma-BYU — Sat. (noon), ESPN, 2.2 million
10. Minnesota-Ohio State — Sat. (4 pm), BTN, 2 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

North Carolina-Clemson — Sat. (3:30 pm), ESPN, 1.8 million
Wake Forest-Notre Dame — Sat. (3:30 pm), NBC, 1.5 million
North Alabama-Florida State — Sat. (6:30 pm), CW, 1.3 million
Boston College-Pittsburgh — Thurs. (7 pm), ESPN, 1 million
Duke-Virginia — Sat. (3 pm), CW, 307,000

^-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

If there were secondary highlights for the ACC, beyond the top-five Louisville-Miami matchup (estimated audience of 2.9 million), they both came in the form of pleasant surprises: the Thursday night matchup between Boston College (6-4) and Pittsburgh (2-8) on ESPN, and the North Alabama-Florida State tilt, a rare prime-time game in the league’s new contract with The CW.

Relatively speaking, the Panthers’ 24-16 victory over the Eagles attracted a very solid number (1 million) on ESPN. Thus far this season, only three 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, Virginia-Louisville in Week 11 (1.3 million), Navy-Memphis (1.1 million) in Week Three, Wake Forest-Duke (814,000) in Week 10, 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.

Meanwhile, #4 Florida State’s predictable destruction of North Alabama, an FCS team with a 3-7 record, generated The CW’s largest college football audience of the entire 2023 season. The Seminoles’ 58-13 victory, in which the only drama was a season-ending injury to star FSU quarterback Jordan Travis, attracted an estimated audience of 1.3 million viewers.

Previous matchups on The CW this season drew estimated audiences of 788,000 (Virginia-North Carolina), 642,000 (Clemson-NC State), 617,000 (Cincinnati-Pitt), 569,000 (Louisville-Pitt), 386,000 (Marshall-NC State), 367,000 (UVa-Boston College), 332,000 (Georgia Tech-Wake Forest), 289,000 (NC State-Wake Forest), 262,000 (Georgia Tech-UVa) and 205,000 (VMI-NC State).

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.