Saturday night featured the most attractive slate of primetime games of the college football season so far with games involving ranked teams on ABC, NBC, Fox, ESPN, and ESPN2. The big ratings winner on a Saturday night that saw five different networks air six different college football games was NBC, a much needed sports victory for the network. NBC's coverage of the Notre Dame-Michigan game drew a 4.0 overnight, beating ABC's Clemson-Florida State broadcast by 20% (3.2 overnight) and ESPN's LSU-Auburn SEC tilt by 40% (2.4 overnight).
NBC, Notre Dame v Michigan: 4.0
ABC, FSU v Clemson: 3.2
ESPN, LSU v Auburn: 2.4
ESPN, Oregon v Arizona 2.1
Fox, Kansas State v Oklahoma, 1.7
ESPN2, Georgia v Vandy, 0.7
What may be even more telling is the struggles Fox continues to have in drawing the college football crowd. Their telecast of Kansas State's upset of Oklahoma drew just a 1.7 overnight, which was worse than four of the five games on other networks, including the 10:30 ET ESPN airing of Arizona vs Oregon. The lone game Fox topped was the ESPN2 game that saw Georgia blow out Vanderbilt.
Notre Dame topped the charts last week as well, when their victory over Michigan State on ABC tied Alabama vs Arkansas on CBS (late afternoon start) for the night's top rating with a 3.2. Fox once again lagged behind, with USC's upset loss to Stanford drawing only a 2.5.
NBC won't be able to immediately capitalize on the Irish's ratings success, however. Notre Dame has a bye this weekend and NBC will be airing Ryder Cup golf in the afternoon (which should help out a lot in the face of Fox's baseball coverage and middling Big Ten football on ABC). However, NBC will be airing Notre Dame's home games with Miami and Stanford in consecutive weeks, which should continue the ratings bonanza.
There is still bad news out of all this for NBC, though. After the Stanford game on October 13th, Notre Dame has just two games left against ranked opponents in Oklahoma and USC. Both are road games, and neither will be aired by NBC. So while NBC has had a great run with the Fighting Irish so far this season, they won't be the only benefactors of Notre Dame's 4-0 start.