A very strong schedule for the opening weekend of college football provided the networks of ESPN with the top four overnight ratings on Saturday. USC-Alabama and LSU-Wisconsin both scored for ABC. Both games received a 4.9 rating which makes them tied for the second best overnight rating for an opening Saturday game on the network. The only game that is higher is Notre Dame-Georgia Tech which averaged a 5.8 overnight in 2006.
In addition, Houston-Oklahoma at noon ET on ABC received a 4.0 overnight rating while Clemson-Auburn in the ESPN primetime window had a 2.8 overnight which was the Worldwide Leader’s best rating of the day.
And Clemson-Auburn’s number is an 87% increase over last seseason’s Arizona State-Texas A&M game on ESPN which aired at 7 p.m. ET. Last night’s Clemson-Auburn aired later at 9 p.m.
Locally, Houston saw 12.8 overnight for the Houston-Oklahoma game. For the USC-Alabama game, Los Angeles scored a 6.9 overnight. Both numbers are local records for an opening weekend on an ESPN network.
Online, LSU-Wisconsin became ESPN’s most streamed opening Saturday game and third-best overall for a regular season college football contest. With all of the college football action plus the U.S. Open, ESPN saw a huge day with 249.1 million minutes watched and 2.7 million unique visitors.
So by having such a strong opening weekend slate of games, fans not only flocked to their TV’s and mobile devices to watch, ESPN saw some very good numbers for the games. It’s a model for future opening weekends and a message to schools to not schedule cupcakes.