College Football’s Week Eight (2023):
Duke-FSU = ACC’s Only Ratings Hit,
As Big Ten, SEC Again Lead The Way

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

The Atlantic Coast Conference continued its run of solid 2023 television ratings during Week Eight of the college football season, even producing the #3 audience nationally, although for the second straight week — and just the second time this season — the ACC had only one of the 10 most-watched matchups.

While only one ACC game generated a seven-figure audience Saturday, it was a true whopper. The Saturday night ABC matchup between #4 Florida State and #16 Duke, a 38-20 Seminoles victory in Tallahassee, drew the largest prime-time audience  (4.1 million) of the entire weekend and finished third overall.

Although ACC teams have been part of several of the most-watched nonconference games of the 2023 season (e.g., Florida State-LSU, Notre Dame-Duke and Notre Dame-Louisville, which all surpassed five million viewers), the Duke-FSU game was just the third ACC-vs.-ACC clash of the season that attracted more than four million viewers. The others were Clemson-Duke (4.4 million) in Week One and FSU-Clemson (6.7 million) in Week Four.

Below are the 10 most-watched games of the extended Oct. 16-21 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 Southeastern Conference, and one in the ACC.

As usual, the two leagues with by far the most lucrative television contracts, the Big Ten and the SEC, continue to produce multiple top-10 audiences on a weekly basis. Indeed, on Saturday, each league produced a Saturday afternoon ratings juggernaut; Penn State-Ohio State (10 million) and Tennessee-Alabama (8 million) pulled in estimated audiences that ranked as two of the eight largest of the entire 2023 college football season.

For the most-watched college football games from earlier this season, please visit our summaries from Week OneWeek Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, Week Six and Week Seven.

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. Penn State-Ohio State — Sat. (noon), FOX, 10 million
2. Tennessee-Alabama — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 8 million
3. Duke-Florida State — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 4.1 million
4. Michigan-Michigan State — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 3.7 million
5. Utah-Southern Cal — Sat. (8 pm), FOX, 3.2 million
6. Texas-Houston — Sat. (4 pm), FOX, 3.1 million
7. Washington State-Oregon — Sat. (3:30 pm), ABC, 2.4 million
8. UCF-Oklahoma — Sat. (noon), ABC, 2.2 million
9. Mississippi-Auburn — Sat. (7 pm), ESPN, 1.8 million
10. Minnesota-Iowa — Sat. (3:30 pm), NBC, 1.7 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

Virginia-North Carolina — Sat. (6:30 pm), CW, 788,000
Appalachian State-ODU — Sat. (7 pm), NFLN, 60,000
NC Central-Morgan State — Thurs. (7:30 pm), ESPNU, 27,000

^-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

Although in most contexts any Power Five football game that fails to draw more than one million viewers is considered a disappointment, UVa’s shocking 31-27 victory over #10 UNC in Chapel Hill generated by far the largest audience (788,000) of the ACC’s new relationship with The CW.

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

Finally, App State’s 28-21 loss at Old Dominion was a disappointment both on the field and on the TV side (estimated audience of only 60,000). The three previous NFL Network broadcasts of college football games this season included audiences of 101,000 (Army at Louisiana-Monroe), 83,000 (Houston at Rice) and 81,000 (James Madison at Troy).

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.