College Football’s Week Nine (2023):
FSU-Wake = ACC’s Only Top-10 Game,
As Big Ten, SEC Again 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 most disappointing ratings results of the year during Week Nine of the 2023 college football season.

For just the second time this season, the ACC failed to have a team involved in any of the five largest audiences of the week, and it had only one of the 10 most-watched games overall.

Florida State continued to be the ACC’s bellwether program, on the field and in the ratings context. The #4 Seminoles’ 41-16 victory at Wake Forest improved their record to 8-0, and the game’s estimated audience of 2.1 million was the largest among those involving at least one ACC team, although it ranked only ninth nationally.

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, those conferences produced the two most-watched games of the week: Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville (6 million) and Ohio State at Wisconsin (4.9 million).

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

The Buffaloes’ 28-16 loss at UCLA attracted an estimated audience of 4.7 million, the third-largest of Week Nine. In chronological order, the seven 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) and third (UCLA) 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 and Week Eight.

Below are the 10 most-watched games of the extended Oct. 23-28 college football slate. All 10 were conference matchups: three in the SEC, two in the Big 12, two in the Big Ten, two in the Pac-12, and only one in the ACC.

Game — Time Slot, Channel, Avg. Audience

1. Georgia-Florida — Sat. (3:30 pm), CBS, 6 million
2. Ohio State-Wisconsin — Sat. (7:30 pm), NBC, 4.9 million
3. Colorado-UCLA — Sat. (7:30 pm), ABC, 4.7 million
4. Oklahoma-Kansas — Sat. (noon), FOX, 3.6 million
5. Indiana-Penn State — Sat. (noon), CBS, 3.4 million
6. Oregon-Utah — Sat. (3:30 pm), FOX, 2.8 million
7. Tennessee-Kentucky — Sat. (7 pm), ESPN, 2.5 million
8. BYU-Texas — Sat. (3:30 pm), ABC, 2.4 million
9. Florida State-Wake Forest — Sat. (noon), ABC, 2.1 million
10. South Carolina-Texas A&M — Sat. (noon), ESPN, 1.9 million

Other Rated^ Games Involving ACC/NC Teams

Pittsburgh-Notre Dame — Sat. (3:30 pm), NBC, 1.9 million
Duke-Louisville — Sat. (3:30 pm), ESPN, 928,000
Syracuse-Virginia Tech — Thurs. (7:30 pm), ESPN, 782,000
Clemson-NC State — Sat. (2 pm), CW, 642,000
Florida Atlantic-Charlotte — Fri. (7:30 pm), ESPN2, 329,000
South Carolina State-NC Central — Thurs. (7:30 pm), ESPNU, 25,000

^-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, NC State’s 24-17 victory over Clemson in Raleigh generated the second-largest audience (642,000) of the ACC’s new relationship with The CW.

Previous matchups on The CW this season drew estimated audiences of 788,000 (Virginia-North Carolina), 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).

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.